The House human rights committee met on Monday with members of the anti-drugs council for a progress report on drug rehabilitation programmes with a special focus on underage and female drug addicts.
While Cyprus ranks relatively low in terms of illegal substance use, the latest data released in 2017 on alcohol abuse by minors is worrying, the anti-drugs council told MPs.
“Abuse of a substance is a door that can lead to the use and dependence of other substances,” said Costantinos Stylianou, general secretary of the council.
According to Stylianou, the high alcohol abuse from minors is of great concern and a more complete picture is expected with the 2019 general population and student population survey.
The committee then discussed the first six months of the pilot drug addiction treatment centre for minors that hosts 17 children, aged from 12 to 19.
The Nicosia treatment centre launched in March and works on a 24-hour basis providing intensive treatment, accommodation and supervision for minors.
The €600,000 budget project supports underage substance abusers who lack a family support network, underage abusers whose level of addiction warrants an intensive treatment programme, and convicted underage users.
The operation of the centre has not been without its critics with some arguing that in the case of a forced rehabilitation, the treatment fails.
Even so, MPs discussed the increasing number of younger drug addicts which have led to calls for similar rehabilitation centres to be set up in Larnaca and Famagusta.
In terms of treatment for women, the anti-drugs council told MPs that the women’s treatment centre has helped 54 women since it opened in 2012.
Although the number of female substance abusers are significantly fewer than male ones, the Committee on Human Rights and Equal Opportunities pointed out that three MPs –Skevi Koukouma, Evanthia Savva and Irene Charalambidou – had in 2016 called for the right for female drug abusers to have specialised rehabilitation programmes.
Akel MP Koukouma said that although rehabilitation programmes had helped to stabilise the numbers of substance users, the budget of the anti-drugs council should be increased to actually reduce the number of cases.