One of the major problems professionals working with drug addicts face is denial. Most people attending treatment for drugs find it hard to admit even to themselves that they are addicts, even if their addiction has literally wrecked their lives. These professionals have become too familiar with statements starting “I do have some kind of a problem with drugs, but …..” The second part of the statement could be a million things such as “I’ve never been to prison or a mental asylum”, “I have a University degree” or even “the real problem is my partner, if only s/he understood me better I would stop using drugs”.
These addicts do realise that something is going wrong in their lives and that in some way drugs are contributing to their problems, but the professionals also know that real progress starts when these addicts can say “My name is Joe and I’m an addict”, and really believe it.
Amid both global and local experts claiming that the war on drugs has failed both the Maltese government and the opposition are behaving like these addicts. They don’t believe there’s anything really wrong in the present system. Like the addict that admits that he does somewhat have a bit of a problem, they don’t deny completely that a problem with drugs exist in our country. They can’t. Nearly everyone has an addict in his extended family.
Yet if someone hints that what we’ve been doing all along might have to be reformed, they categorically say “No way”. Even if that someone happens to be Dr George Grech, the clinical director of Sedqa. Unfortunately cheap populism is not allowing a mature debate on this issue.
Unless we take our heads out of the sand and put drug reform, which may includes implementation of the proposal of Dr George Grech concerning the decriminalisation of certain drugs for personal use, on the table we can’t move forward on this escalating problem. Pretending everything is going on fine, when in fact it isn’t, is no different behaviour than that that of the addict that thinks he might somewhat have a problem, but it’s not a real issue. It’s useless having experts as George Grech and then ignoring their proposals.