New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis spent Christmas night with people who are following or have completed a drug rehabilitation program.
Mitsotakis took part in an open-ended discussion at a cafe in Vathis Square, where drug dealing and use are prominent.
Mitsotakis' interlocutors talked to him about how they got started on drugs, their experiences as addicts, their entering a rehabilitation program and the problems they encounter after the program.
The group initially discussed prevention policies; Mitsotakis spoke of the need to better inform students and their parents.
Participants also discussed ways of finding jobs and, in general, reintegrate into society without facing the stigma of a former addict. “If you are over 45, it is very difficult to find a job in any case, never mind saying that you are a former drug user,” said a 58-year-old man who is about to complete a rehabilitation program and who started using at 23.
Mitsotakis said authorities should be more active in supporting people who have successfully shaken off their addiction. “We will back up such efforts any way we can,” he said.
Participants mentioned rehabilitation policies in other countries. Mitsotakis' interlocutors said that creating areas of supervised drug use is the most effective way to protect addicts' health and lives and often works as the first step towards them seeking to shake off drugs. It would also help decisively in fighting drug-related crime. Mitsotakis said there is no serious argument against creating supervised use spaces in Greece.
The former users also said the number of new needles distributed is not enough,leading users to swap used ones and helping transmit the HIV virus, which causes AIDS.
Some among those who attended had been jailed and they told Mitsotakis that access to drugs in prison is very easy, one more example of how ineffective authorities are in dealing with drug use.
After thanking his interlocutors for their input, Mitsotakis joined the mobile unit of Praksis, an NGO that daily visits the Athens center, helping drug users and others, such as homeless people and prostitutes, including victims of international trafficking.