The centre for information and treatment of addictions (Kenthea) on Wednesday called for the inclusion of services for people dependent on substances in the state health system, Gesy.
In a press conference to mark the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking marked on June 26, Kenthea’s chairman, Bishop of Tamasos, Isaias, said today there is an evolving epidemic of the use of stimulants.
This is evident, he added, both in the findings of a recent survey of wastewater, and a survey of the general population, but also the requests for treatment related to stimulants, and Kenthea’s day-to-day experience.
“As a result, the incidence of psychoses has increased significantly,” the bishop said. He added that this finds the state unprepared since the Athalassa hospital, which is the only competent institution to deal with such cases when they pose a danger to themselves and others and do not cooperate to receive treatment, is overcrowded, understaffed and often has problems with its material and technical infrastructure.
“We welcome the approval of the expenditure required for the construction of a new mental health hospital. Until the project is completed, however, a solution needs to be provided immediately for the treatment needs of the mentally ill and addicts,” the bishop said.
Bishop Isaias said Kenthea was ready to cooperate with the state mental healthcare services and contribute to their work in relation with cases of people addicted to substances who need inpatient treatment.
He also said Kenthea was ready to provide training to professional groups dealing with people dependent on substances such as the police on how to better handle people experiencing psychotic incidents. Isaias also said training family physicians in matters of early detection of substance abuse, as well as wider issues of long-term effects from alcohol abuse was of paramount importance.
He also called on the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) to review the issue of including services to people dependent on substances in Gesy.
“We understand that the immediate cost of integrating this group of patients is high, but the long-term savings that will result from improving the health of these often chronic cases, will benefit the system in the long run and from an economic point of view,” the bishop said.
He said that, for example, the timely referral for detoxification of an alcohol addict will prevent costly and lifelong treatments such as diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, hepatitis, etc.
“It is also a moral issue and a human rights issue for people dependent on substances for equal treatment by the state,” the bishop said.
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris who attended the event said that, unlike the other scourge of the era, Covid 19, the addiction pandemic is a versatile ‘virus’ that adapts and affects its victims even in confinement.
“The only solution is to shield our children with the antibodies of confidence, creativity, education, sports, spirituality,” Nouris said.
The minister said he had particular knowledge of the effects of addiction on humans through his scientific background, as pharmacist, but also in the context of his collaboration with Kenthea since its establishment.
Nouris said that from 1994 until today, municipalities and communities have, through “exemplary partnerships”, created with Kenthea counseling stations, which provide addiction prevention and treatment services throughout Cyprus.
“So we are all here today to support efforts to prevent all forms of addiction by providing healthy activities, education, sports, cultivating spirituality, reducing poverty and social exclusion, equal opportunities and social justice,” Nouris said.
The bishop said addicts are often victims of discrimination and stigma and announced that Kenthea was launching a new round of contacts, bringing to the fore again the charter for the rights of people dependent on substances.