Drugs and Me sets up the First Harm Reduction Information Booth in Malta
The Drugs and Me stall at The Bubble, September 2019. Source: Karen Mamo
Through the use of informative leaflets about alcohol, ketamine, cannabis, cocaine and mdma, Drugs and Me encouraged festival goers to use and promote harm reduction principles and to educate their friends to be responsible and always go low and go slow.
Last month, Drugs and Me was in Malta to participate in the yearly The Bubble- a festival of change. The Drugs and Me information booth provided harm reduction education to local and foreign participants and encouraged a more responsible approach to drug use in general.
The 2019 country report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction explains that the Maltese National Drug Policy dates back to 2008. The policy is based on six pillars and sought to address illicit drug problems, alcohol and prescription medication abuse via legal, judicial, health and harm reduction principles. Over the last 11 years, the policy has been crucial to successfully reduce the number of infectious diseases related to intravenous drug taking. Nonetheless, there seems to be a lacuna in the educational and harm reduction spheres.
Most accessible information online continues to focus on a Just Say No approach, preaching abstinence as the sole option when dealing with illegal substance use. Educational manuals promoted in schools and youth centres only focus on the negative health, legal and economic consequences of substance use without providing a proper understanding of why people use drugs and ways to mitigate harm. Moreover, the educational material and examples provided are overwhelmingly disconnected from real life experiences and fall short from providing a safe space for discussion.
People approaching the Drugs and Me stand, especially young people, expressed great curiosity about harm reduction principles and evidence-based drug education material. People were eager to learn more about how to have fun and be safe. Many people thanked Drugs and Me for the initiative and hoped to see more initiatives around the island.
It is interesting to note that a huge majority of people that approached the info booth were keen for drug testing facilities to be introduced on festival grounds in Malta, highlighting that these are already available in leading music festivals in Europe and the USA.
When considering the lack of accessible and up to date educational material and the very positive responses and eagerness by people visiting the information booth to learn more about safety when using legal and illegal substances, it is clear that more non-judgemental resources and information is urgently needed to provide Maltese young people and adults with harm reduction tools and evidence based approaches to drug use.
*Karen Mamo is a Maltese citizen, with a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and Mediterranean Security and a keen interest in drug policy reform. Currently she is also enrolled for a Master of Science in Addiction Studies.