Women in Drug Use: Deafening silence

In Greece, the Support. Don’t Punish campaign was this year dedicated to women who use psychoactive substances, the silent group that has no voice or face in the country, but suffers from stigmatization and marginalization and is hard-pressed by serious problems in addition to its usual usage.

On the occasion of Global Day of Action of the campaign, the member organizations of the NGO Platform for Psychoactive Substances (Peer-to-Peer Users Network of Psychoactive Substances, Diogenis Policy Dialogue on Drugs, Positive Voice, Centre for Life, Prometheus, Steps and PRAKSIS) organised an event dedicated to women using psychoactive substances. They invited guests to talk about them, name them and open the road together to find realistic solutions, listening to the stories of the women themselves as well as the experiences of professionals in the field. The event was held on 27 June at the Beatniks Road Bar in Athens.

Women have the right to enjoy rights and fundamental freedoms, without discrimination, in all areas of life. These rights also apply to women who use psychoactive substances.

The multiple identities that women using drugs experience – pregnant, mothers, workers, migrant, refugees, sex workers, trafficked persons, victims of physical violence, prisoners – reflect the particular needs associated with the experience of social stigma, financial situation, insufficient social support, family relationships, a substance-mate partner, children and treatment. Services for women using psychoactive substances should take into account these particular needs of this vulnerable population and be hospitable, non-critical, supportive and, of course, provide emotional safety.

A “Rights Guide” for women using psychoactive substances which highlights the above was presented at the event.

Survey of drug users mapping in the centre of Athens

DPNSEE member organisations from Greece Prometheus and Positive Voice have developed a study on the anthropogeography of users of psychoactive substances in the centre of Athens in September 2018 using a sample of 200 people. The survey collected information on demographics and living conditions of users, type of psychoactive substance they use and whether or not they joined the retirement or substitution program.

According to the findings of the study, 80% of users are male. The average age is on an upward trend compared to 2010 (33.7) and 2012 (37) – currently it is 38 years. 53% of the sample are primary school graduates, while in terms of nationality there is an increase in the number of foreigners (from 13% in 2012 to 34.5%).

In the residence area in the centre of Athens, the largest concentration of population is located in the areas of Vathis Square, Karaiskakis Square the Theatre Square and the University campus. Regarding the type of psychoactive substance, the highest rate is 63.5% heroin use, while cocaine use accounts for 44.5% of the sample, 14% for Tai, 16% for benzodiazepines and 15% for shisha.

Out of the 200 people, 116 have been included, even once during their lifetime, in a drug rehabilitation or substitution program. However, at the time of the survey, only 49 people were enrolled in a program. The majority of the sample (130 persons) is not in a program or have applied for it.

In conclusion, it is noted that the population of psychoactive drug users in the centre of Athens is “aging“, while the association of the particular population with a high risk of premature death is questioned. Also, high users’ time in the centre of Athens, coupled with the increased rate of homelessness, raises serious issues of personal and public health and user safety. The findings of this study are consistent with the results of the Aristotel’s HCV/HIV study and demonstrate the need for harm reduction policies such as the re-opening of the medically supervised areas and the immediate increase in free distribution of safe use in cooperation with organizations active in the field.

To summarize, the findings of the study highlight the issue by demonstrating that the problems associated with the drug use in the centre of Athens are perpetuated, increased and differentiated at rates that require immediate and effective action.

The study was conducted in collaboration with a working group under the scientific responsibility of Mr. Giorgos Kalamitsis, President of Hellenic Patients’ Association Prometheus, Minerva Melpomeni Malliori, Professor of Psychiatry, First Psychiatric Clinic of Athens University, Eginiteio Hospital and Vana Sypsa, Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Laboratory of Epidemiology and Medical Statistics of the Medical School of the University of Athens and courtesy of the Athens Trade Association and the Union of Hoteliers of Attica and Argos Oasaronic.

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Discussing for matters that matter to us

For one more year, the global campaign “Support. Don’t Punish” has been successfully implemented in Greece, with the valuable support of Drug Policy Network South East Europe, that effectively coordinated the implementation of the activities among the different countries in the SEE region, and International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) – responsible for the overall coordination of the campaign around the world.

This year in Greece, 7 different civil society organizations – that constitute the Greek NGO Platform for Psychoactive Substances*, an unofficial initiative for joint action among organizations working in the area of drug policy and psychoactive substances – joined forces and cooperated in order to effectively spread the message of the campaign, sensitize the public, raise awareness regarding the harms being caused by the criminalization of people who use drugs and promote the need for human rights and public health oriented drug policy and drug law reform.

These organizations co-organized a joint event, an open dialogue meeting entitled: “Support. Don’t Punish” – Discussing for matters that matter to us. The event took place on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, at 7 pm, at the Athens Municipal Cellular Market (42, Fokionos Negris str). The aim of the dialogue was to discuss regarding: current public health and drug policies applied in addressing the issue of psychoactive substances, the way users are being treated by the state and society, the issue of combating crime that accompanies drug use by law enforcement and finally the removal of unjustified social stereotypes at the expense of PWUD, the importance for the provision of substantial support, as well as the need for equal, meaningful and substantial participation of users community in procedures totally concerning them.

The open dialogue meeting started with the presentation of the SDP campaign, important issues on the current national drug policy and the priorities set out by the community of PWUD by Mr. Anastasiou Christos (representative of PeNUPS) who also coordinated the discussion. Mrs. Katerina Konidari, psychologist, social researcher and writer, talked about the representation of addiction treatment on art; Mr. Michalis Lolis, Police Lieutenant of the A’ (First) Police Department for Combating Racist Violence, communicated his experience on human rights’ issues and the protection of people with different identities and Mr. Yannis Kissas, representative of PeNUPS specifically referred to the Network’s proposals for supportive policies rather than the punishment of drug users.

This year the participation at the event exceeded our expectations. More than 80 people from different backgrounds (e.g. scientists, professionals working in the field of drugs, representative from the Ministry of Health, people from the community of PWUD, volunteers from different organizations, activists, representatives from residents’ initiative, people with no prior involvement from the general population, etc.) were present at our event, who actively participated in the discussion by sharing their reflections, raising questions and contributing from their point of view. At the end of the event, following an online vote among members of the Network a symbolic prize (an office compass) was awarded at the OKANA Substitution Unit which according to Peers’ view provides the most friendly and integrated services to PWUD.

The press release for the event was published by many different online media sites. Moreover, ERT – Greek public state television – expressed the interest to present our event. Mr Christos Anastasiou, Μr Thanos Papagianopoulos and Mr. Marios Atzemis – all representatives of the community of PWUD – were hosted by the journalist Mr. Arvanitis Kostas at his broadcast entitled “Different Dimension” and talked about the campaign, promoted the message that PWUD need support instead of punishment, underlined the need for active involvement of PWUD in the decision making processes and the need to address stigma and marginalization.


*The NGO Platform for psychoactive substances consists of the following organizations:
PeNUPS – Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances
CENTRE FOR LIFE for the support of people living with HIV/AIDS [DPNSEE member]
DIOGENIS – Drug Policy Dialogue [IDPC partner member & DPNSEE partner member]
POSITIVE VOICE – Association of People living with HIV/AIDS [DPNSEE member]
PROMETHEUS – Hellenic Liver Patient Association [DPNSEE member]
PRAKSIS [IDPC network member]
STEPS

Long list of activities in the Support. Don’t Punish campaign in South East Europe

On the occasion of the 26 June, The United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the Global Day of Action of the Support. Don’t Punish Campaign is organised in more than 150 cities in the world. The Drug Policy Network South East Europe this year again coordinates activities of the campaign in South East Europe, where 10 of our member organizations are pushing actions in 9 countries and 11 cities.

To the launch the campaign, DPNSEE will organise “Kick-off event” in the EU Info Centre in Belgrade, Kralja Milana 7, on 21 June 2018 at 12:00. Representatives of the Network will present the current situation in the countries of South East Europe. To contribute to the campaign, DPNSEE will also present the baseline research on “Documenting Drug Related Cases of Discrimination”, an activity within the project “Strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations in South-East Europe and promote drug policy based on respect for human rights and public health”. Our guests will be Danilo Ćurčić from the A11 – Initiative for economic and social rights and Dr Hajrija Mujović, Vice -chair of the Association of Lawyers for Medical and Health Law of Serbia – SUPRAM.

Representatives of the Network will as well present the activities of the Network members in the countries of the region.

In Albania, on the 26th of June, Aksion Plus will organize awareness activities in two cities, Tirana and Durres. The activities will include sharing leaflets and information especially toyoung people. In their Opioid Substitution Therapy centres, they will organize small group discussions, outreach information, leaflets distribution, one to one conversations and counselling to raise their awareness on how to better protect their rights, as well as to provide referrals to other institutions in case they face violations from police, courts and law enforcement agencies. During campaign clients will be strongly encouraged and supported to fight for their rights and report to the organisation or to the People’s Advocate when they face violence or stigma, and messages of the campaign will be also communicated to the Government officials.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, organization Margina will organize events in city of Tuzla. That will include promotional activities, starting the campaign on 11th of June by screening documentary film “I want to wake up” with aim to point out the problem of education of young people and reducing stigma and discrimination against drug users. Other activities planned are Public Debate and Press Conference “CANTONAL INSTITUTION FOR DISEASES” – Why do we not have it? as introductory event to the entire day of action on 26th of June, that will also be presented through street action in city of Tuzla. In this event, following documents will be presented: Bosnia and Herzegovina National Drug Strategy 2018 – 2023, Policy to reduce drug use damage in the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina, Decisions of the Government and the Tuzla Canton Assembly on the establishment of the “Institute for Addiction of the Tuzla Canton”. The Association Margina is dedicating this day, as well as other days of the year, to people who have adopted this “lifestyle” with the aim of bringing the wider community closer to the addicted population and so additionally contribute to the reduction of stigma and discrimination.

Check out their facebook event and join the day of action:  https://www.facebook.com/events/407051669794756/

In Bulgaria, organization Initiative for Health Foundation will write and promote article, telling the story about the campaign worldwide and its implementation in Bulgaria in the last years. The article will be written by a professional journalist and popularized mostly in NGO platforms and other online channels. The organization will also develop a frame for a Facebook profile image and dissemination on social media consecutive counting of dissemination

To activate your facebook frame in the Bulgarian language go HERE

In Croatia, Organisation Terra will organise the Forum theatre performance on the problems of a former addict who is hindering discrimination due to his past. The play will be organised on the 26th of June, to mark the International day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking. The theatre will be played in the city of Rijeka, Croatia.

Check out their facebook event and join the day of action:  https://www.facebook.com/events/2087957514813170/

 

In Greece, in Athens, the action will be implemented by the NGOs Platform for Psychoactive Substances. This platform is an unofficial initiative for joint action among organizations working in the area of drug policy and psychoactive substances, currently consisting of the following organizations: Centre for Life, Diogenis, Peers Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances, Positive Voice, Praksis, Prometheus and Steps. This year the Greek NGO Platform for psychoactive substances will undertake the organization and implementation of the campaign in Greece.

They are organising an event on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, at 7 pm, at the Athens Municipal Cellular Market (42, Fokionos Negris str) as an open dialogue regarding: current public health and drug policies applied in addressing the issue of psychoactive substances, the way users are being treated by the state and society, the issue of combating crime that accompanies drug use by law enforcement, and finally the removal of unjustified social stereotypes at the expense of PWUD, the
importance for the provision of substantial support, as well as the need for equal, meaningful and substantial participation of users community in procedures totally concerning them.
The event will be followed by participation of Mrs. Katerina Konidari, psychologist, social researcher, and writer, who will talk about the representation of addiction treatment on art; Mr. Michalis Lolis, Police Lieutenant of the A’ (First) Police Department for Combating Racist Violence, who will communicate his experience on human rights’ issues and the protection of people with different identities and Mr. Yannis Kissas, representative of the Peer Network of Users  psychoactive Substances, who will specifically refer to the Network’s proposals for supportive policies rather than the punishment of drug users. The discussion will be co-chaired and coordinated by Mr. Christos Anastasiou, member of the Peer Network of Users Psychoactive Substances.

You can find the full press release in English HERE  or on Greek HERE

To get involved:

Like their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/supportdontpunishGreece/

Join their facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/179003616107047/

Follow them on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/support.dont.punish_greece_/

In Macedonia, organisation HOPS will to focus on recreational drug use, harm reduction and human rights. The central event will be organized in Skopje, as a public debate/panel on the health and legal aspects of recreational drug use and harm reduction. Activists, experts, decisions and opinion makers will take part in the debate, which will also be streamed online. In addition, IEC materials will be produced containing information on practices for reducing harms from recreational drug use, as well as personal rights. The 3 different leaflets will be promoted during the public debate and will be later distributed during the field activities at music events. All activities will be supported by a social media campaign aimed to inform a wider audience on harm reduction practices and raise public awareness about human rights.

Check out their facebook event and join the day of action: https://www.facebook.com/events/1632706273514505/

 

In Montenegro, organisations Juventas and Link will organize several activities such as Street movie projection nights, on the 26th of June and screen a documentary by Drugreporter that would be premiered during the campaign. The documentary is following the work of our two NGOs, talking about the implementation of the Harm Reduction Program in Montenegro, most of all covering the story of the work and struggles of the Drop in centres for people who use drug and sex workers and our outreach work. Documentary is also talking about the challenges that NGO Juventas and NGO Link face in daily work with clients and in the partnering institutions. In addition to this documentary, other documentary films of the NGO’s that are conducting Harm Reduction program in the region are planned to be screened, as well as some cult films that correspond to the topic.

During the campaign the project team will set up an information stand at one of the University of Montenegro’s Faculty in order to influence on young people, share with them message of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign, as well as information about the harm reduction program itself and the services provided by NGOs Juventas and Link. NGOs will distribute information to media and ensure national media coverage.

Check out their facebook event and join the day of action: https://www.facebook.com/events/251897252232425/

 

In Romania, this year Romanian Harm Reduction Network alongside with other two member organisations of DPNSEE,  ARAS and ALIAT will organize a series of activities to mark the Global Day of Action and participate in the campaign. They vary from online consultations with people who use drugs on changes to be made to the law 143/2000 on preventing and combating trafficking and illicit drugs use, using iterative-designed videos online to presents law 143/2000 and others laws on drugs in Europe. They will also organize a consultation meeting with representatives of NGOs providing services (prevention, harm reduction, treatment) for people who use drugs on the changes to be made to the law 143/2000 on preventing and combating trafficking and illicit drugs use, organize a “lawkathon” (working session) with lawyers from LGBT, human rights, Roma, education, feminist and/or housing NGOs to formulate the amendments to the law 143/2000 on preventing and combating trafficking and illicit drugs use, according to the proposals made by people who use drugs and NGOs providing services during the consultations, organize a round-table/meeting with representatives from various ministries on the proposal to amend the law 143/2000 on preventing and combating trafficking and illicit drugs use. Last but not least there will be organized flashmob/short event at the Parliament building to raise awareness on the proposal to amend the law 143/2000 on preventing and combating trafficking and illicit drugs use.

In addition to the activities listed above, they are planning on connecting a series of other events financed through private sources to raise awareness on stigma associated with substance use and addiction, under the same harm reduction / Support. Don’t Punish umbrella.

The facebook event to join the action is: https://www.facebook.com/events/179830952686479/

 

In Serbia, NGO Prevent will implement action Support. Don’t Punish for the fourth time in Novi Sad. Campaign will start on 20th June when the media were informed about the action. Prevent will spread information through social networks and during campaign reach over 30 thousand people in this way. Prevent also announced the competition for the best short video on the topic Support. Don’t. Punish which will be the official promo video of their Association for participation in a global campaign marking International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking 26th of June.

To follow up their camapaign and street action find more information on their facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/preventns/

 

NGO Re Generation, together with Drugstore Belgrade, announcing the Global Day of action within the campaign Support. Don’t Punish, are organizing an event that will start the cooperation of this club and this organization in order to create safer nightlife, which is the first of this kind in Serbia. After recent events in Europe that have been linked to drug policy and nightlife, NGO Re Generation and Drugstore decided to launch higher-level cooperation within the framework of the Global Day of Action, in order to influence the change of awareness and the change in drug policies in general. Joining the campaign, Re Generation and Drugstore want to express sincere concern and start the program, present the activities within the cooperation with which they start their own struggle for safer, better quality and better night environment that we are all part of!

Join their event and support the healthy nightlife settings:  https://www.facebook.com/events/278127766064145/

 

Petition of the Greek NGO PLATFORM for psychoactive substances

The member-organizations of the NGO PLATFORM for psychoactive substances filed a petition that was followed by a related memorandum to the Greek Minister of Health, Mr. A. Xantho requesting for a robust, fair, substantial, accredited and legally established participation of the civil society, including members of the community of people who used drugs, in the process of planning, implementing and evaluating the national drug policy. Despite the multitude of relevant European and international recommendations, that practice is not always deemed obvious or essential.

The Platform requests to participate in the work-process of national drug policy-making within the national planning and coordinating commission with one regular member and one alternate. They believe that their long-standing experience, the high level of our expertise and comprehensive engagement in the fields of drug policy and psychoactive substances justify such a decision.

The petition is available following this link>>>
The original Greek version is available following this link>>>

Greek organisations united around the “Support. Don’t Punish” campaign

For one more year, the global campaign “Support.Don’t Punish” has been successfully implemented in Greece. In 2017, 6 different civil society organizations – that constitute the Greek NGO Platform for Psychoactive Substances, an unofficial initiative for joint action among organizations working in the area of drug policy and psychoactive substances – joined forces and cooperated in order to effectively spread the message of the campaign, sensitize the public, raise awareness regarding the harms being caused by the criminalization of people who use drugs and promote the need for human rights and public health oriented drug policy and drug law reform.

The organizations that supported the implementation of the campaign were:

  • CENTRE FOR LIFE” for the support of people living with HIV/AIDS [DPNSEE member]
  • DIOGENIS”- Drug Policy Dialogue [IDPC partner member & DPNSEE partner member]
  • PeNUPS”- Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances
  • POSITIVE VOICE”- Association of People living with HIV/AIDS [DPNSEE member]
  • PROMETHEUS” – Hellenic Liver Patient Association [DPNSEE member]
  • PRAKSIS” [IDPC network member]

For the achievement of the aforementioned goals, two main activities were implemented:

  1. A press interview (June 27th, 12.00-14.00h, at Romantso, 3-5 Anaksagora Street, Omonia, Athens)
  2. A street event (June 27th, 19.00h at SIN Athina, Athens)

Furthermore, before the 27th of June, representatives of these organizations took the initiative to spread the message of the campaign during several official events, that were organized by state authorities by asking officials, journalists, scientists, decision-makers and other high-ranking representatives of governmental organizations to take a photograph with the logo of “Support.Don’t Punish” (e.g. Mrs. Teta Papoutsopoulou-Diamantopoulou, the National Drug Coordinator; Mr. Evaggelos Kavetzopoulos, President of the Hellenic Organization against Drugs- OKANA; Mr. Nikolaos Manios, Chairman of the Parliament’s Committee on Social Affairs; Μr. Nikolaos Paraskevopoulos, MP and former Minister of Justice).

The press interview given by representatives of PeNUPS

The press interview was given by representatives of PeNUPS (Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances), Mr. Christos Anastasiou and Mr. John Kissas, promoting in that way peer involvement which is one of the basic principles of Harm Reduction.

The remaining organizations actively supported the needs for the preparation and successful implementation of this activity. It was the first time that people coming from the community of PWUD had the floor in a press interview, which attracted 30 participants and was coordinated by the journalist Mrs. Ioanna Sotirchou.

During the afternoon of the 27th of June, a street event also took place in the center of Athens. The goals of this activity were to make the campaign more visible, celebrate the message of “Support.Don’tPunish”, provide informational material and offer some services both to the general population and vulnerable groups (including PWUD) in the area.

 

The street event in the center of Athens

Volunteers from the coordinating organizations actively contributed in the implementation. T-shirts, bags, stickers with the logo of “Support. Don’t Punish” and flyers with the basic principles of Harm Reduction were distributed. In addition, NGO Praksis offered free, anonymous and voluntary rapid testing for HIV, HBV and HCV with its mobile unit. Moreover, of outmost importance was the contribution of the initiative “STEPS” that helped in the preparation of food and beverages and offered music. This event gathered and united around a hundred people.

For the needs of campaign’s promotion a facebook page was created under the title: Support.Don’t Punish -Greece- where you can have access to more detailed information, videos and photographs. Facebook advert was used attract more people to the page, resulted in 300 likes within a week.

2 facebook events were also created for the promotion of the two activities:

https://www.facebook.com/events/203865003471040

https://www.facebook.com/events/321069778316468

Group photo from the street event

Annual Drug Policy Conference

The Annual Regional Conference in South East Europe was organised in Thessaloniki from 8 to 10 June 2017. The conference aimed to bring together NGOs, policy makers and researchers active in the drugs field in the region of South East Europe, in order to discuss drug policy developments and trends, exchange experiences and best practices in the region, Europe and the United Nations.

The conference is part of the regional project “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South East Europe”, supported financially by the European Commission and the Open Society Foundations. The organiser was Diogenis, Drug Policy Dialogue.

National drug coordinators from Romania and Croatia

The Conference agenda included a large number of interesting issues:

  • The Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and drug policy. Priority issues, the role of UN agencies, expected commitments from the member states and role of NGOs. Presenter was Jo Dedeyne-Amann, Chief Secretariat to the Governing Bodies, Division for Treaty Affairs, UNODC. Nikos Stergiou, Communication and public relations Officer, Diogenis, presented experience of two local meetings.
  • Initiatives undertaken in the countries of our region related to implementation of the outcomes of the UNGASS and the role of NGOs. National drug coordinators presented work in their countries: drug co-ordinators: Sorin Oprea (Romania), Milan Pekić (Serbia), Željko Petković (Croatia) and Manina Terzidou, head of the Greek Monitoring Centre for Drugs (EKTEPN) (Greece)
  • Women and Drugs. Facts and Special Characteristics for Girls and Women who use drugs was the presentation from Meni Malliori, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Athens, while Georgia Aslanidou, Psychologist, OKANA Thessaloniki presented about Addicted mothers and the journey of therapy
  • Drugs and internet: experiences, opportunities and concerns in the use of online counselling tools presented by Ilias Paraskevopoulos, Consultant for addictions at KETHEA ITHAKI
  • The Harm reduction project in South East Europe. Developments and next steps presented by Sofia Galinaki, Advocacy Officer, Diogenis and Peers’ involvement in harm reduction, with introduction from Christos Anastasiou, Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances (PENUPS).
  • Irena Molnar and Bojan Arsenijević from the NGO Re Generation, Serbia provided valuable insight into Changing culture in drug use including new psychoactive substances
  • Developments in the discussion about cannabis policy in countries of SEE
Irena Molnar presenting about Changing culture in drug use including new psychoactive substances

Representatives from 14 DPNSEE member organisations, 3 Board members and all 5 Staff were at the Conference. We presented the Network, strategic priorities and plans for the future. Our two volunteers talked about their work on the Glossary and Resource Pool.

Marios Atzemis, DPNSEE Board member, making an intervention

The Conference was a very good opportunity to share and learn about interesting ideas and make plans for the future.