International Day against drug abuse

On Tuesday, which marked the international day against drug abuse, the United Nation's Secretary General, Kofi Annan, released a statement in which he urged governments and NGOs to fight against drug addiction and drug trafficking. He noted that 4 percent of the world's population, some 240 million people, abuse drugs. In light of this day, representatives of the city of Prague and the Czech Republic's NGOs dealing with the problem came together to exchange ideas and discuss what the current situation is like in the country. Dita Asiedu has more:

In the Czech Republic alone, it has been estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 people abuse drugs. Although this statistic is lower than in most of the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, the numbers are on the rise and require ever greater government and public attention. The director of the UN information centre in Prague, Andreas Nicklisch, said on Tuesday that what was a development of particular concern in this region was that so-called party drugs like ecstasy, for example, which usually are taken in the form of tablets are increasingly injected.

He also said that parallel to this problem was the recognition that the Czech people tended to regard drug abusers as one-way people, who have brought their fate on by themselves and are not worth wasting scant resources on. He continued to say that this social attitude had brought about government inertia and had resulted in the use of outmoded health methods caused by the lack of funds devoted to that field. Nina Janyskova is Prague's anti-drug co-ordinator as well as a member of the city's anti-drug committee:

"The city of Prague makes use of its budget to support many drug-related projects. The financial expenses involved, however, are increasing and I hope that this year we will be able to broaden the programmes available with the creation of another help centre."

Whilst Mr. Nicklisch said that treatment in the Central and Eastern European region was extremely ineffective and inadequate, Martina Richterova-Teminova a street worker from the organisation SANANIM, which deals with drug abusers, disagreed in part, pointing out that results have shown that treatment had proven to be effective but was indeed inadequate:

"Here at SANANIM, we have evaluated the effectiveness of our work out on the streets over the last three months and have noticed a positive result. Our clients, who often appear to be scruffy and careless can indeed be helped and we've been able to use the activities we have available to get them to take a safer approach to drug use and eventually make the decision to be rehabilitated. We have also found that ever more clients are using our clean needle centre and even came back to return the old ones. One negative aspect, however, is that the actual number of people using our services is on the increase whilst the number of street programmes are not. When one of our workers has only about four-and-a-half minutes to attend to his client he does not have the chance to preach about the safe use of drugs."