Psychiatrists and OASI charity send out warning over recreational cannabis legalisation

‘We are concerned with the increase in recreational drug use, mostly cocaine and cannabis’

In a warning against treating drug use as recreational, the organisations said users were neither conscious nor cautious of the substances they used
In a warning against treating drug use as recreational, the organisations said users were neither conscious nor cautious of the substances they used

Legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes would contradict harm-reduction policies, and will not eliminate the illegal supply of cannabis, the Malta Association of Psychiatry and the OASI drug rehabilitation charity have stated.

The two organisations said they had witnessed an increase in the variety of drugs on the market and in quantity and quality, with more potent forms of psychoactive substances being available.

“We are concerned with the increased availability of drugs. 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. Drug use, nowadays, is not tied to any social strata or cohort, but demands for treatment arrive from persons of all social levels and standards, most with no family history of substance use disorders or other mental health problems,” the organisations said.

In a warning against treating drug use as recreational, the organisations said users were neither conscious nor cautious of the substances they used, with the harm caused being gradual, hidden by its euphoric and relaxing effect, and only visible with time.

“We believe that punishing illegal use is often counterproductive, although we have encountered cases where law enforcement was a motivator towards a more satisfying and fulfilling life away of all substance abuse. We 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 two organisations said they agree with the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes under scientifically proven practices and strict protocols.

But it said that if the legalisation of cannabis will see new individuals starting cannabis use then definitely this could not be labelled as a harm reduction strategy.

“We need stronger policies which guide enforcement based on training and educating not only front-liners in the enforcement and health care sectors, but also the general public.

“Parents need more professional support easily available in order to be more equipped to deal with the challenges of children’s upbringing as well as education about detecting early signs of behaviours associated with drug use.

“The same applies to the effects on the industry and work place. Employers need support and guidance on how to deal with cases of intoxication, not only with reference to machinery use, but also to how drug use effects work relations and productivity.”

The organisations also called for a Poison Unit in the hospital emergency departments to monitor intoxication cases and levels in our hospital admissions, drug-driving policies, stronger preventive strategies such as the Icelandic Preventive Model. “It took 20 years to produce results and included, among other strategies, removing alcohol availability from homes and from the visibility of younger generations.”

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