OPINION

The pandemic will pass, but addiction will not

the-pandemic-will-pass-but-addiction-will-not

The European Drug Report 2021 made the worrying observation even before the annual assessment published by Greece’s Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals (KETHEA).

It found that 28.9% of the European Union’s approximately 83 million adults between the ages of 15 and 64 had, at some point in their life, used an illegal substance. It also noted that this percentage should be treated as the minimum rate. Experts also believe that one of the many consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is an increase in the number of people with addictions.

To stick to the problem in this country, thousands of Greeks are addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling or the internet. “Involvement with drug use began at around the age of 15 with cannabis.

At the age of 18, they had found the substance they would go on to describe as the main substance they abused over the 14 years until they came to KETHEA in search of treatment. That substance was heroin for 42.8% and cannabis for 33.6%, while the increase in cocaine use continues, at 17.8% in 2020 against 14.2% in 2019,” KETHEA said in its report for 2020, published yesterday.

The numbers are not meant to create an impression, nor is there any use for the kind of moralistic reaction that demands answers on who is to blame, what are the causes, and facile, stereotypical analyses about “declining values” and whatnot.

The problem, according to the experts, is becoming increasingly complex, as factors such as the “evolution of information technology, demographic shifts and climate change” start to play an active role.

Psychoactive substances are increasingly being used by increasingly younger individuals, often resulting in them dropping out of school, and the family environment – regardless of how much at fault it may be – cannot provide the solution on its own. This, moreover, applies no matter what its financial or social position.

If there is one important point to the information that has been published recently it is that it should encourage people – both those struggling with addiction and those close to addicts – to face the problem and seek help.

The reports’ findings should spur efforts to bolster centers and programs (KETHEA is just one of many) that provide high-quality, free-of-charge specialized services so that the safety net can become bigger and stronger. Because as the director of KETHEA, Vassilis Gitakos, also notes, “the pandemic will pass, but addiction will not.” And there is nothing more effectively toxic than isolation, abandonment and indifference.