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Cyprus

Drugs council plan to help reduce abuse among army conscripts

By Annette Chrysostomou

THE anti-drug council announced a comprehensive plan on Friday to prevent drug use in the National Guard where a large number of males in their teens, a high risk group for using addictive substances, spend time together.

While time spent during the two-year army service can be a potential source of drug use, it is also an opportunity for early intervention, the council’s statement said.

Studies of risk factors suggest that drug use is due to the individual, the social environment and the availability of the substance. Low self-esteem, an appeal to substance use, lack of adequate information about the risks and availability of addictive substances, all contribute to the potential use of drugs.

Consequently, the new plan uses a holistic approach, tackling dependence on both illegal and legal drugs. It is founded on treating addiction as a priority for public health policy rather than concentrating on issues of legality.

The anti-drug council said it cooperated with the ministry of defence in order to develop goals and actions which change individual’s behaviour or facilitate change by changing the individual’s environment.

Together, they developed a national strategy, which is the key policy document for dependencies and directs the actions and initiatives of the Cypriot state for the next eight years. The main pillars for intervention are prevention, treatment and social reintegration, harm reduction, setup and control supply and international cooperation, and it incorporates four transverse tools: documentation, evaluation, research and monitoring. For each pillar separately, the new national strategy sets priorities and defines goals.

The new memorandum lists some of the actions which have been decided upon.

Seminars and training will be offered by the police drug squad to officers and the young soldiers with the purpose of designing creative activities for their leisure time. Officers will be trained in crisis management and problem behaviours, and a “volunteer national guard corps” programme will be initiated for schooling the men, including schooling in self-defence and martial arts.

Professional training programmes will be implemented in cooperation with the Open University and a psychological helpline will operate on a 24-hour basis for the conscripts, with professional and qualified staff of the army’s mental health department, which will also continue to offer support by employing two psychologists.

The statement stresses that in times of adverse economic and social conditions that have significantly impacted the Cypriot society, where vulnerable groups are weakened further due to unemployment and social exclusion, the army should act as a strong barrier in relation to harmful behaviours, care for those who need support, and widely apply modern programmes.

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