by Natasha Pavlopoulou
ATHENS, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Greece marked the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Wednesday, focusing on the importance of human relations and social support networks as protective agents against dependence and catalysts for treatment and reintegration.
Various organizations and NGOs throughout the country organized actions, speeches and artistic interventions. The theme of this year's day which is observed every June 26 is "health for justice, justice for health".
The largest network of detoxification and social reintegration services in Greece is KETHEA (acronym for Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals), with more than 100 units in 29 cities and 19 prisons stores.
It has been operating since 1983 and on an annual basis, it supports approximately 15,000 people with different forms of dependence: illegal substances, alcohol, gambling, internet.
On the occasion of the day, the KETHEA NOSTOS program and the Department of Juvenile and Social Welfare Services of Piraeus port, organized a special event with the title "Stand By Me" at the Piraeus Juvenile Court on Tuesday.
After three months of intensive work, 15 members of the program, including seven former drug addicts, and therapists, with the voluntary contribution of visual artists, transformed the premises of the Court, filling it with colors and images against violence, social exclusion and addictions.
"Every year, our center implements one or two of these actions, such as visual interventions in schools, squares, public spaces, because it helps to keep the team united, and enables youth to socialize, to grow their self-esteem and to meet functional people so as they can make their first steps toward creating their new identity without drugs," Andreas Kremmydas, head of KETHEA NOSTOS Social Reintegration Center, told Xinhua.
The members of the program are pleased to be involved. "I am glad that we are now walking on this road, painting and offering to society. I feel it is creative, we have many messages to share through our plans," Panagiotis, a 29 year-old cook, said.
"I have also passed from the juvenile courts, I have been tried and I remember that when I was in the prison I was watching a gray wall around me and I was afraid. I believe that now with our own touch, every young person will get the message, through a stamp, a painting, a simple question he can do to himself," he explained.
According to the estimates of KETHEA, the total number of high-risk users using the main substance of opioids aged 15-64 are approximately 16,500.
Although this figure has dropped since 2010, in this same period, which coincides with the outbreak of the financial crisis in the country, there is a clear qualitative deterioration in the status of the dependents: Increase of homelessness, aggravation of health problems and social exclusion, emergence of new cheaper and more dangerous substances and so on.
This development is visible to the big urban centers and especially in Athens, stresses Marina Daskalopoulou, Head of Department of Information at KETHEA.
In the European Union, about 96 million adults or 29 percent of citizens aged 15-64 years old are estimated to have used an illegal substance during their lifetime, according to data from the European Annual Report on Drugs in 2019, cited by the Greek national news agency AMNA. In Greece, the most popular drug is cannabis, as 11 percent of adults have used it at least once in their lives.