Treat people for their drug addiction, rather than imprison them, urged the Gozo-based Oasi Foundation on Wednesday, as it warned that death by suicide was on the increase. 

The foundation, which has been around for 30 years, said that people with drug-related problems needed help and not incarceration.

"Use of force has never worked when it comes to substance use. External agents can easily control the body, but the mind is impossible to master unless the individual manages to find a safe and secure point of reference where they can anchor themselves," it said in a statement.

"People may be held back from drug use for some time while under strict control and supervision, but they will eventually heavily indulge in the substance of choice once the body is set free."

On Sunday a 29-year-old inmate at Corradino Correctional Facility was found dead almost three weeks after she was discovered unconscious in her cell in what prison officials had at the time described as a suicide attempt. 

The following day, popular presenter Peppi Azzopardi tore into the prison authorities, saying they were aware that the inmate, who had a drug problem, wanted to take her life, and yet failed to do anything about it.

Reacting, the authorities said the woman was never on suicide watch.

'Drug Dependence Act has not solved the problem'

On Wednesday Oasi referred to the 2015 implementation of the Treatment Not Imprisonment Act as "a huge step forward" in addressing substance use. However, this law catered only for cases of drug possession and did not address people who committed mistakes due to their drug problem, it said.

"We have met people who committed theft, fraud, sold their bodies or drugs, among other things, to be able to sustain their addiction.

"The Drug Dependence Act has not solved the problem. We now need to find ways to direct problematic drug users towards therapy and treatment and also encourage them to maintain their focus in the treatment process.

"People need to be treated according to their individual needs, rather than through a rigid set of strict rules," it said.

Treating addiction required patience and commitment from all parties involved in the recovery process. 

"We need not waste time to start evaluating our current policies, procedures and practices while monitoring their effectiveness against drug trends before another life is lost."

Oasi said it witnessed loss of life on a daily basis.

Suicide, which is the most silent yet devastating death, seemed to be on the increase due to the current stressful lifestyles, the potency of the drugs that are being used now, and lack of support, it added.

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