Addressing the gap for women to access drug treatment in Montenegro

In Montenegro, there is a center for the rehabilitation and re-socialization of men who use drugs, but there is no such center for women dependent on psychoactive substances. Representatives of NGO 4 Life have called twice on the Government and relevant ministries to address this problem.

Demographic characteristics of Montenegro

According to a 2011 census, the total population in Montenegro is 620,029, of which women accounted for 50, 6%, and 49.4% of men. One-third of Montenegro's population lives in Podgorica, the country’s capital.

According to the survey, conducted in 2006 by the Institute of Public Health, under  supervision of the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Montenegro has 2,500 to 3,000 people dependent on drugs. However, it should be noted that more recent research is not available, and that the data only relates to people who have sought help at public institutions. In Montenegro, there is no official register of people who use drugs, despite the adoption of the 2008 National Strategy for Combating Drugs.  The data available do not include gender statistics.

Data from NGO 4 Life shows that there is a large number of women who use drugs (17% of those requesting help in NGO 4 Life are women). It is striking that many start using drugs from a very young age. Data from the Center for Mental Health Podgorica report similar trends on women who use drugs. Of the 1,300 registered dependent users who go to the Center for Mental Health for help, every sixth is woman.

The right to drug treatment

Because there is no right to treatment for women in Montenegro, only a small percentage of women seek treatment in the region. For example, the Health and social care in Montenegro has a few beds in the department of psychiatry, but only provide detoxification. Due to the difficult financial situation, the fact of having children, and many other reasons, a much larger proportion of women dependent on drugs continue to use drugs, often leading to negative consequences on themselves and their families. For example, an increasing number of children of dependent women undergo withdrawal symptoms, putting them at health risk. This is inevitable if women are not provided with the care and treatment they need for their dependence.

The right to health care is a human right. Denying this right implies a violation of major international documents and conventions on human rights, most notably the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, of which Montenegro is a signatory state. At the national level, the Constitution of Montenegro also protects the right to health.

The realization of the right for women dependent on drugs to access drug treatment is provided in the document "National Strategic Response to Drugs 2008 - 2012", as well as the Action Plan for this period. But to date, this has not been implemented.

Bearing in mind that respect for human rights is a key aspect in the negotiations on accession of Montenegro to the European Union, we expect that, in accordance with EU standards, the government will provide adequate leadership and funding to enable the establishment of evidence-based drug treatment centres for women dependent on drugs.

In September 2012, representatives of NGO 4 the government in that regard. The proposal was considered to be strong, interesting and financially viable. As such, it was sent to the Ministry of Work and Social Welfare, but we are still waiting for a response.

Saša Mijović, Director of NGO 4 Life