Drug abuse in the Czech Republic on the decrease


The Czech Republic has overcome a past "boom" in drug abuse and the situation is now far more stable. The government now wants to focus more on the prevention of organised crime, illegal drugs sales and distribution, as well as the negative health impacts on continuing drug abusers.

It's a great achievement for the Czech Republic: the number of people addicted to hard drugs is declining and up to 70 % of them are in contact with help centres. However more and more Czechs have been experimenting with cannabis and ecstasy; the government also admits that there will have to be more of a focus on reducing alcohol and tobacco abuse.

On Wednesday the government praised NGO's in the drugs sector, thanking them for their contribution in helping reduce the drug problem. Meanwhile Jiri Richter, the head of the major non-governmental organisation Sananim, present at a press conference on the developments, praised the Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares for a pragmatic and active approach. Jiri Richter told me more about the Czech drug policy.

"Since 1993 we have had a really good policy. It is well-balanced, it contains all kinds of measures which are common in the EU countries, so it is very modern. The problem is action, realisation of this plan. Sometimes I have the feeling that we are still living in a monarchy - the ministry, the departments do not communicate enough. They develop their own strategies, so sometimes activities overlap and there are misunderstandings, even some arguments. This of course does not contribute to an easy-going working atmosphere."

According to Jiri Richter the greatest problem for NGO's are decreasing state funds. However Sananim still provides a wide range of services in the field of counselling, prevention and services for drug addicts. The organisation wants to get as close as possible to young people and therefore it has decided to rely on the internet. The recently launched web side provides e-counselling which - thanks to unique technology - guarantees anonymity and information security. I asked Jiri Richter if his organisation also deals with alcohol and tobacco abuse.

"No, it's a fact that there was no funding for prevention in this area for one thing, and for another there was not much awareness. Politicians don't pay enough attention to problems with alcohol and tobacco. There will be probably be more of an emphasis on this area of abuse in the near future."

Sananim currently organises a very special project helping doctors from Afghanistan, a country with widespread drug addiction, to gain experience in the Czech Republic. Currently a young doctor is on a three month visit to the Czech Republic and another one should arrive soon. Jiri Richter explains more about the motives for this project.

"We have strong thanks for countries which helped us ten years ago. Because what we know is not something we created ourselves but what we brought from the Britain, Holland and other countries. So this is sort of our thanks to those countries who helped us."