Easy access to drug rehabilitation services is vital: NDA

Malé, Maldives – NDA member Abdul Hameed has stated that easy and fast access to drug rehabilitation services is necessary to overcome drug related issues in the Maldives.

He said this in an interview with local news “the Press”. While there are treatments in place to help drug related issues, a system needs to be established to provide easy access and keep the pace with youth released by courts into society.

Abdul Hameed also said that the previous treatment program has been amended and they are working on creating a national standard of care for drug related issues.

While acknowledging that there is always a wait list for treatments, Abdul Hameed said that with the implementation of a mental health service out patient services in the past three months, more patients are being treated and the queues numbers are getting significantly lower.

NDA is also working on providing treatments in islands by enacting Community Reintergation Treatment Programs in islands so that it is no longer necessary for patients to travel to Malé for signing, urine sampling and rehabilitation.

NDA is supposed to establish six types of treatment facilities under the Narcotic Drugs Act 2011. According to the Act, NDA was given an eighteen month period to set up a detoxification centre, a drug treatment/rehabilitation centre, a children’s drug rehabilitation centre, a women’s drug rehabilitation centre, a halfway house and a drug offender remand centre.

The public has raised concerns regarding NDA’s inability to fulfill these responsibilities with some protesting in front of the NDA building in Male’ City last year. Protestors have accused NDA of being unable to provide services for and accommodate those suffering from addiction in the Maldives.

Homelessness due to drug addiction is a significant problem faced by Maldives. In January 2021 photos and videos of homeless drug addicts squatting in Metro café in Malé went viral, leading to public outrage. #BanNDA was also being used by citizens on social media to highlight the failings of NDA and demand reform from related authorities.

Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services in April 2020 that 31 percent of homeless people that requested government assistance were identified with drug addiction and drug related issues. In 2013, the National Drug Use Survey estimated that there were 7,500 drug users in the Maldives, with majority between 15-24 years old. 200-300 were found to be injecting drug users who are vulnerable to the spread of blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Experts conclude that this figure is on the rise since then.

NDA is now under new management with Mohamed Habeeb taking over the CEO position in January 2021.