More resources needed in fight against drugs in Seychelles, says top official
The fight against substance abuse in Seychelles is a long one and additional resources and a proper place to provide services are needed by the Division for Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation (DSAPTR), said a top official.
The director general of the division, formerly the Agency for the Prevention of drug abuse and Rehabilitation (APDAR), Marie-Josette Louise, told SNA that, “at the moment, we have scarce resources to handle all the issues we are tasked with, where we have to work with various partners to ensure we can deliver on our mandate.”
One of the constraints is financing and Louise said that her division does not have enough budget funds to give the services needed.
“Addiction is complex and we do not have enough people trained to treat addiction, including psychologists and nurses. Appropriate infrastructure is also a concern,” she added.
According to DSAPTR, there were 4,267 clients on the various programmes it offers. Around 99 have successfully completed the programmes and 2,771 are still active – meaning they are maintaining their appointments and treatment – while the rest have defaulted and are irregular.
Around 2,771 clients are still on the methadone programme. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
The fight against drug abuse in Seychelles was intensified in 2017 with the setting up of the Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation and subsequently, a methadone treatment programme was put in place. The programme includes the distribution of methadone at regional levels.
The division is currently spending over $300,000 (SCR4 million) annually on its Methadone programme alone.
The Division for Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation in January replaced APDAR which was created in 2017 and became a part of the Ministry of Health.
Treatment, prevention and education, as well as alcohol programmes, are among the functions of the Division for Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation.
A Seychellois doctor working with the division, Anabelle Marie, explained the work of the treatment unit that gets the most attention, especially from the public.
The unit is responsible for the harm reduction programme, known locally as the Methadone programme which has received a lot of criticism from the public.
“This programme’s function is to reduce the damage and harm caused by heroin addiction on society and families. We acknowledge that an addict does not always want to get clean and because of that, a lot of people are being affected,” explained Marie.
She gave the example of those who inject drugs and said that the sharing of needles will not only affect the user but if the person catches any diseases like HIV or Hepatitis C, he or she could infect family members or others.
For that reason, as part of its harm reduction programme, the division has been giving out clean needles to its clients to ensure that they are not sharing needles.
Marie also explained that the harm reduction programme is not geared towards detoxification, but is a step towards it.
“We want them to stop using drugs but that is something that they need to be ready for and take that decision. When they have made a decision, that is when they move to our treatment programme. They will have regular counselling, treatment, drug tests and other activities to get them off drugs and can return to becoming a productive member of society,” she said.
Marie also shared her views on the reasons people become addicts and said that it is because of different underlying social, mental and psychological conditions and “we need to get to the bottom of, in order to treat the patient.”
Vast majority of heroin users in Seychelles started with cannabis first
She revealed that a vast majority of heroin addicts started using cannabis first before moving to harder drugs.
On the subject of the legalisation of marijuana, a topic being discussed in Seychelles, the director general of DSAPTR said that it is affecting their educational campaign with the youth.
“We at the DSAPTR fighting against drug abuse are not against the medical use of cannabis and we feel it should be prescribed by a doctor. We are not in favour of using it for recreational use,” Louis added.
As a division under the Ministry of Health, plans are in place to deliver better services and the main one is to have a building of their own where all their services can be offered in one place.
“We are also looking at revamping our services, such as the methadone programme, where we are looking for ways to make it more effective. We are also looking at services that are already offered elsewhere so that there are no duplications, and this will help us manage our resources,” said Louis.