A number of former drug users graduated at Caritas’ San Blas yesterday after cleaning themselves of the habit in a residential programme.

Caritas director Mgr Victor Grech said that according to 2009 statistics, there were that year 667 young people who sought treatment at Caritas centres - 83 per cent men, 17 per cent women.

Their average age was 25 but ages ranged from 14 to 59. 45 per cent of clients were unemployed and the primary drug used was heroin. Cocaine, the most common drug in the previous five years, dropped in usage.

The secondary drug last year was cannabis (43 per cent), cocaine (25 per cent) and heroin (10 per cent).

A total of 74 per cent completed their treatment and 26 per cent stopped it for six consecutive months.

Mgr Grech said that mephedrone, also known as Meow, Meow, could be bought on the internet and was still not considered illegal. It was being consumed by 40 to 50 per cent of drug users who took drugs during weekend parties, according to calculations.

Sold as a plant fertiliser, it affected mental health.

Between 2004 and 2009 the number of clients increased by 29 per cent.

Mgr Grech said that one of the aims of the therapy and formation given in Caritas homes was to help a person make the right choices, which would give his life a meaning.

Another aim was for the person to learn to live in a community with others, sharing, giving back, serving and making others happy.

The third aim was for residents to learn to return the love they would have received while at the home.

He said that drug rehabilitation was a long process which many times involved more than one care and treatment episode, since dependence on illegal substances was a chronic disorder.

Caritas has been providing a residential service for 25 years. Some of those who had received the service were now part of the Caritas staff. Others worked with Sedqa and other agencies.

Unfortunately, some returned to their old habits.

The graduation, which included a variety programme put up by the graduands, was also attended by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Opposition leader Joseph Muscat.

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