National agency against drug and alcohol abuse Sedqa CEO Sina Bugeja said that 468 youths underwent the drug rehabilitation programme in 2012.
She was speaking during the launch of the single and music video 'Stick No Bills' by Footprints this morning at Dar l-Ewropa in Valletta – a project funded by the EU's Youth in Action Programme in conjunction with Sedqa and the national youth agency.
Speakers included Social Solidarity Minister Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport Stefan Buontempo, Miriam Theuma from Agenzija Zghazagh, Foootprints band members Bernard Catania and Hilary Spiteri, and Larissa Aquilina, a University student who participated in the project.
Ms Bugeja described the project as “trendy”, but one which conveys a strong message that youths undergoing treatment against substance abuse should not be stigmatised.
“The aim of the project,” Mr Catania said, “is to bring about awareness that youths who fall in the substance abuse trap have a chance in life to start afresh”.
He said that the idea came about when the band was invited to play a gig for a number of youths who were undergoing a drug rehab programme.
“All the band members entered the San Blas rehab premises with a sense of prejudice,” he said, adding “but it later transpired that after all, these youths weren’t any different from us all and weren’t at all what we initially thought they’d turn out to be”.
Mr Catania emphasised that these youths can significantly contribute to society, and stand a great chance of kicking the habit.
“Therefore, this idea of a music video, ‘Stick No Bills’, came about, conveying an important message that such youths should not be stigmatised.
Ms Louise Coleiro Preca pointed out that if one wanted to be honest, everybody once in his or her life stepped out of line.
“There are some of us who fall in a trap but leap out again immediately emerging unscathed and others who get stuck in the trap for a much longer time.
“Youths who, in some way or other, manage to combat their problems, will find it hard to seek employment, for instance,” adding “that it’s wrong to label them”.
She emphasised that it was vital to stop stigmatising these youths, while pointing out that she has come across a number of youths who were stigmatised, despite their successful efforts to rehabilitate themselves.
Referring to the national drug policy last updated in 2008, Ms Coleirio Preca said that it is simply outdated.
She said that the internet should be used as a tool to help raise awareness on the dangers of drug abuse and attractive projects such as today’s launch are also a great help.