Letizia Moratti Letizia Moratti

Letizia Moratti, Mayor of Milan
Addressing the 14-th Mayors Conference
May 10-11, 2007


The War on Drugs: Culture and Action

The epidemic spread of drugs in our country began 40 years ago. Over this period, marked by individual and family tragedies, victims, I feel we have to better analyze the reasons of the problem, the social framework, the positive experiences, but also the failure of the policies since then adopted.

In the political-sociological schemes then in fashion, the use of drugs was often presented as a form of ”social rebellion” against a society considered as hypocritical and moralistic.

The problem, in my view, comes from the roots in the ”total freedom” and ”everything now” subculture generated in 1968.This reductive and distorted view due to political and sociological factors kept us from understanding that drugs are the loss of meaning in life.
Experience and better practices formed and developed in our country have demonstrated that the consumption of all drugs, none excluded, is a symptom, perhaps the most evident symtom, of a short-circuit in the education and developmental process of an autonomous identity for millions of young people in our societies. Young people unable to find in the society and world of adults points of reference, credible examples, behaviour models, parents they may oppose but with whom they can discuss to seek improvement and have interchanges, affection and shared feelings.

Taking drugs means feeling alone within the world and toward oneself. It means escaping one unpleasant reality in search of another. It means choosing the shortcut of irresponsibility versus facing the challenges of daily life. Taking drugs means being afraid to live, not to die.

Drug consumption is not just a problem of the young but of all of us. Of a world of adults who too often forget the needs and demands of their children because they are driven to pursue success, social position, image, power.
Drug addiction is not an incurable disease, as has often been stated in Italy and in many other countries around the globe, an inescapable pathology against which the only possible strategy is containment and damage control, based on medication, the so-called ”State drugs”, on ”injecting rooms”, on the controlled distribution of heroin, on the distinction between use and abuse, and on the prospect of responsible substance use.
It was precisely because of this partial and ”fractional” approach that the drug issue was relegated to the back burner, a problem for specialists.

In Italy the law in effect until 1990 interpreted drug addiction as a public health problem and drug addicts as patients requiring care.

In the Eighties and Nineties reality revealed that with this approach only a part of the objectives of these strategies were achieved and with enormous effort.
I am referring to the reduced mortality due to heroin overdose and the spread of HIV infection among drug users.

Meanwhile we had to face new challenges associated with transformations in the drug world, such as the great diversification of substances and of the consumers lifestyles from social and economical point of view.

Drugs started to be a fashion and a normal way to escape from boredom and lack of motivations. Also the difficulties in the intergenerational relations is another factor in this wave.

Drug Consumption and Social Impact

From a political point of view, the persistent distinction between light and heavy drugs had the consequence of an increasing number of persons who perform their day-to-day activities in a state of mental alteration with dangerous effects on the consumer health and security and social problems related to their behaviour.

It is time to clearly state that the policies with the objective of social control have been a failure and that the only action to be followed is the total rehabilitation of the individuals.

We have no excuse: all scientific evidences proved that drugs are a threat for health and a danger for society. Cities that face every day health and security drug-related issues have to gather and join actions, putting their governments in front of new responsibilities, asking for national laws that will provide for prevention, full rehabilitation and support public and private organisations that have proved to produce results on the full recovery and rehabilitation of individuals.
Therefore Public institutions must focus on prevention policies, on education, training, communication and support to those organisations that proved to be successful in the rehabilitation process and on the return to work and to social responsibilities.

Some significant data:

The problem we face in the City of Milan takes on more and more serious proportions with each passing year.
I want to give you some sample data on the spread of cocaine, which is rapidly becoming the drug most consumed in our country.

  • There are 700,000 habitual users

  • 7 % of the population has used it at least once

  • 15 % of the people assisted by public services are being treated for cocaine dependence.

In my city, according to a survey by the Mario Negri pharmaceutical institute,
4 % of the inhabitants between 15 and 34 years of age habitually consume cocaine.
And according to projections by the Anti-drug Department, in conjunction with the Lombardy Region (of which Milan is the capital), the consumption of this drug will have increased by 40 to 50 % by 2009.
And I am only speaking of cocaine. I am not talking about cannabis, which has much higher numbers and is widely distributed among the very young, och ecstasy and methamphetamine, on the sharp increase, or heroin, which continues to claim victims and remains far and away the ”historical” drug treated by the public and private services of Milan and, I believe, in all our cities.

Even a profoundly liberal society, like the one in which I believe, must deal with the problem of the common good. Drugs, all drugs, represent a major threat to the future of the young generations. This threat must be fighted, first of all, with a clear, concrete, non-ideological message that confirms personal freedom. Because freedom and drugs are totally opposed.

We are all working for a better tomorrow. Thanks to ECAD and the collaboration of the partner cities, Milan will give its contribution and will learn in the next future.
Together we can achieve the results we want.

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