Methadone administration should go hand-in-hand with a drug rehabilitation programme, otherwise there was a risk society would end up with a methadone addict, Caritas director Mgr Victor Grech said yesterday.

"We are spending a lot of money on methadone maintenance without ensuring that a rehabilitation programme is followed. We know of drug addicts who go to the clinic at St Luke's Hospital to collect the methadone, then cross the road to a bar to discuss how they can lay their hands on drugs," he said.

Mgr Grech was unequivocal in his statement that methadone maintenance units were vital but these alone would not solve the problems of those on heavy drugs.

"We wish to see the distribution of methadone being administered by agencies such as Sedqa or Caritas that can determine whether a person should follow a rehabilitation programme or not," he said.

Mgr Grech was speaking to the press after a meeting he had with the general council of the Union Haddiema Maghqudin as part of a process to highlight the problem of drug abuse at the workplace.

"Drugs have filtered into schools and the place of work. Caritas gets a lot of young people who are employed and battling drug addiction," he said.

He spoke at length on how an employer could spot a drug habit among employees; what could be done and how they could help.

"It is not easy to spot a habit but there are clear symptoms in cases of heroin, cocaine or LSD addiction," Mgr Grech said.

Symptoms could include a change in personality, impatience, being sensitive, aggressive or listless, a manipulator and a liar, unreliability or a lack of commitment at work.

"Of course, these traits could be evident in others who do not necessarily take drugs and these symptoms are just indicators that employers should keep their eyes open for," he said.

Mgr Grech said there should be a greater awareness at the place of work to ensure that anybody with a drug problem got the necessary help.

UHM general secretary Gejtu Vella said the union's council had to work to ensure Malta was a healthy nation by having healthy employees.

"The union has to strengthen its bridge with Caritas and other organisations to create an awareness and battle the problem of drugs - this is a collective responsibility," he said.

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