Crisis may hamper drug rehab programs

Cutbacks in state spending being dictated by the economic crisis could lead to setbacks in efforts to rehabilitate drug addicts, while rising poverty levels and unemployment might create more users, officials from the Greek Organization Against Drugs (OKANA) and the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) told a press conference in Athens yesterday. The director of OKANA, Meni Malliori, and Alexis Goosdeel, head of the Lisbon-based EMCDDA’s international cooperation unit, voiced their concerns during a presentation of the EMCDDA’s official report for 2009. The report, which is based on data gathered in 2008, draws attention to various problems in the Greek system for rehabilitating people addicted to drugs. The Greek system’s greatest shortfall, according to the report, is the extremely long waiting lists for the rehabilitation programs run by OKANA. More than 5,000 people are on the list and must wait an average of three years to be treated. In Athens, the waiting period is six years. Greece has the longest waiting lists for rehabilitation programs in the European Union, along with Bulgaria and Poland. Addressing the press conference, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos said most of the people on the waiting list would join 17 new programs being run by OKANA at state hospitals within the year. The EMCDDA’s report also highlighted some positive statistics. The proportion of Greeks aged between 15 and 64 who said they had used cannabis in the past year when interviewed was 3.6 percent, compared to an EU average of 6.8 percent, while 0.2 percent of respondents claimed to have used cocaine, compared to an EU average of 1.3 percent.