OASI Foundation and psychiatrists against recreational cannabis legalisation
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The Maltese Association of Psychiatry and the OASI Foundation, in a joint statement today, said that together with other professionals, they have been studying the drugs scene as part of their daily work.
“We have witnessed changes, they said, “not only in the variety of new drugs available on the market but also in quantity and quality of drugs, namely more potent forms of psychoactive substances being available on the market.”
The groups argued that “legalising cannabis for recreational purposes is giving out a very unhealthy and contradicting message, especially when combined with harm reduction purposes.”
“The state has the responsibility to give clear messages to the general public and to our young and future generations,” they said. “Users are often not willing to look into effects of the drug that go beyond the euphoria experienced during the period of intoxication.”
The groups went on to say that “in view of the proposal to legalise cannabis for recreational purposes, we feel the responsibility to make our position clear, as we have done several times in the past, more so when such a proposal is labelled as a harm reduction strategy.”
“If the legalisation of cannabis will see new individuals starting cannabis use then definitely this cannot be labelled as a harm reduction strategy,” they added.
They went to remark on how concerned they are with the increased availability of drugs, the change in pattern of drug use and the fact that this is often tagged as recreational despite obvious repercussions on users’ well being.
The Groups noted that treatment demand indicators prove an increase in recreational drugs and drug use, mostly cocaine and cannabis. “We have also noticed a decrease in new onset heroin use.”
They pointed out that drug use, nowadays, “is not tied to any social strata or cohort, but treatment demands arrive from persons of all social levels and standards, most with no family history of substance use disorders or other mental health problems.”
They said that they have also registered a change in the manner by which users approach drugs, especially those kinds that are looked upon as recreational ones.
“Most users are not conscious nor cautious of the substances they make use of. Most of the harm caused by drugs is gradual and covered by its euphoric and relaxing effect,” the groups said.
“It is only visible in time,” they said. “Drug use has been with us for ages, and it will remain with us. Consenting and approving it is different from acknowledging its existence and devise strategies to heal it.”
“We believe that punishing illegal use is often counterproductive,”they said, “although we have encountered cases where law enforcement was a motivator towards a more satisfying and fulfilling life away of all substance abuse.”
The Groups said that they have been advocating for a Poison Unit in Emergency Departments to monitor intoxication cases and levels in hospital admissions.
They argued that “the country needs more data captured from more data sources . These sources could help the law and policy makers.” Adding that “drug driving policies and training also need to be in place and enforced.”
They also said that they “do not want to stigmatise users or discriminate against them – we work with these persons day in day out and we base our practices on ethical standards.”
The groups said that they remain wholly committed to providing care and treatment for persons with substance use disorders and their families.
The groups concluded by reiterating that they “do agree with the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, under scientifically proven practices and strict protocols.”