OPINION

The drug issue

The data that was made public yesterday by the Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals (KETHEA) on the profile of Greece’s drug users was drawn from persons that were admitted to detoxification centers. As a result, it may not correspond fully to the average user profile. The fact that cannabis users, who make up the majority of drug users, are rarely treated in such centers, alone betrays the discrepancy. Nevertheless, the KETHEA report is significant in that conclusions can be drawn about the profile of users who ask for help to end their addiction. The report shows that despite police measures, drug use now begins at an even earlier age (15.6 years). It takes a little over three years before users turn to their «primary substance of abuse» and four before their «first injection.» Furthermore, although drug users have a higher education level than in the past, most of them quit school after their 15th birthday while less than 19 percent have a steady job. Furthermore, while heroin use remains steady, there has been a drop in intravenous use and a rise in inhalation and smoking. It is worth noting that KETHEA’s 2001 report also indicated a reduction in the use of intravenous heroin and a rise in the demand of cocaine, whose price had fallen. When it comes to such a complex and crucial issue as drugs, such data cannot alone suggest a solution. Still, it is enough to highlight the bankruptcy of the existing measures, which are exclusively of a repressive nature. No one can rule out the possibility that children who began using cannabis at the age of 16 might have ended up using heroin not because this was unavoidable, but because the legal ban on cannabis pushed them into the arms of drug dealers. No one can evade the fact that narcotics are also a market that works according to the laws of supply and demand. As such, a reduction in the price of cocaine could offer alternatives to intravenous drugs. No one can insist on the curtailment of substitutes, if these can save children from dying. Finally, no one can refuse to discuss the possibility of decriminalization when drugs’ illegal status pushes prices upward and drives young people to their death. In February, the Cabinet rejected a proposal by Health Minister Costas Stefanis for decriminalizing drug use. The findings of KETHEA indicate that the government must re-examine the issue from scratch.