While addressing the National Drug Coordinators meeting held in Malta during the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity Michael Farrugia addressed the issue of drug rehabilitation treatments.

We strongly believe that we need to make a clear difference between drug traffickers and drug victims. Drug trafficking is a crime that needs to be punished accordingly with proportionate sentencing to the crime committed; on the other hand victims need help, support and evidence based treatments to help them overcome this disease. Drug abuse and addiction have negative consequences for both the individual and society, Minister Farrugia said.

Minister Farrugia said that under the new law (Treatment not Imprisonment) on drug decriminalization that came into force on the 15th April 2015 in Malta, drug users no longer face a court sentence, but instead appear in front of a justice commissioner and, if deemed necessary, a social board made up of experts.

As from April 2015 anyone who was found in possession of up to 2 grammes of Heroin, Cocaine or 2 pills of Ecstacy or any similar substance, or 3.5 grammes of cannabis will be subject to fines. Last week, the Minister for Justice has forwarded fines from penalties to Government and NGOs who invest in rehabilitation services explained Minister Farrugia.

Minister Farrugia spoke about how Maltese authorities work on harm reduction. This is done by focusing on present needs, with a view to prepare for the future, by addressing different human dimensions. These include the physical, socio-legal, psychological and mental aspects, while seeking the true and primary needs of persons suffering from serious drug-related problems through active inter-dependent communication with service users.

For the past 20 years we have been distributing free syringes to drug users as a harm reduction measure. We have had positive results with only 4 HIV, 15 cases of Hepatitis C and 1 case of Hepatitis B, resulting from sharing of needles said Minister Farrugia.

Dr Farrugia also spoke about the free rehabilitation programmes in various Government agencies and other rehabilitation programmes through Service Agreements with appointed Non-Governmental Organisations. Services are also offered for free for all types of other addictions.

Minister Farrugia also mentioned the victims and their immediate surroundings. He stressed that the issue of aftercare does not only revolve around whether the person in question is back on drugs or not. He said that the institutions have to work and ask whether the victim is back with his family, and whether the family is ready to give the necessary support. Moreover, Minister Farrugia mentioned the issue of employment for after rehabilitation, and also how society should be more educated to support rehabilitated victims.

In the coming months, we are introducing for the first time in Malta, Rehabilitation of Under 18 year olds. This centre is expected to be up and running by the beginning of 2018. All in all, our main focus remains to preferably treat victims in the community, and, primarily putting more emphasis on prevention, Minister Farrugia said.

Source: Government of Malta