By Jean Christou

The budget of the Cyprus Addiction Treatment Authority has been increased by €600,000 for 2024 MPs heard on Thursday. However, some raised concerns that several addiction prevention programmes had been cut back in recent years.

The authority’s executive director, Constantinos Stylianou, was asked by the House health committee to provide answers to a number of questions they raised during the session before a detailed budget discussion scheduled for next week.

Stylianou said that the 2024 budget marks the first time in the authority’s history that it is balanced, unlike previous years when it was always in deficit.

Akel MP Marina Nicolaou said that the party supported the work of the authority but pointed out that while needs were increasing “unfortunately, there has been a drastic reduction in prevention programmes”. “This is a negative development,” she said.

For example, she added, a psychiatrist was hired for the methadone programme in 2020 but the programme itself was not yet up and running. She also said there was a need to strengthen the programme in prisons, where there was unequal access.

Dipa MP Michalis Yiakoumi brought another issue to the fore, referring, to a new addiction, that of children’s addiction to electronic devices and social media.

“Addictions are not only about alcohol, gambling, smoking and drugs, but also the internet and social media,” he said, but added that the authority had told him a “good practices guide” was being prepared on this specific issue that would be ready within the next 12 months.