Plan to get addicts into clinics

A government scheme unveiled yesterday aims to do away with three-year waiting lists for heroin addicts seeking rehabilitation by the end of 2008 by creating new units in state hospitals. More than 3,600 heroin addicts are currently waiting to join a rehabilitation program, it was revealed yesterday during a press conference attended by Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on the occasion of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking. Avramopoulos described drug addiction as one of the «worst social problems» in Greece where one in 10 schoolchildren claims to have used drugs at least once and most having their first taste by the age of 15. The first of the new hospital units are to be opened in Epirus where there are no rehabilitation clinics offering methadone and other heroin substitutes. Also, state hospital doctors will eventually be granted the authority to prescribe methadone and other substitute drugs. The program also foresees the launch of a scheme to evaluate the level of addiction of heroin addicts who will subsequently be issued with a «green card» allowing them access to rehabilitation clinics. The Health Ministry’s campaign is to be carried out in parallel with a Public Order Ministry initiative aimed at curbing the illegal drug trade. Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras yesterday pledged his commitment to «locating and punishing these dealers in death» and said the ministry’s campaign would be «constant, uncompromising and without mercy for the traders.» According to figures made public by the ministry yesterday, 103 people in Greece died of drug abuse between January 1 and May 31. The death toll for last year was 255.

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