This year’s ECAD study visit to San Patrignano WeFree days gathered some 35 participants, from Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Sweden.

The WeFree days is yearly event joined by 2,500 young participants from all over Italy and Europe, organized by San Patrignano, Europe’s largest rehabilitation community. Founded in 1978, the community helps young people from all walks of life to overcome histories of drug abuse and addiction. San Patrignano hosts nearly 1,500 young people, and has since its founding assisted over 30,0000 people.
The WeFree days gather experts and practitioners to raise awareness on the drug problem, emphasizing the importance of community service in the rehabilitation process. BildpaSanPatrignano

The theme of the two main WeFree forums was Drugs and Violence – looking at drugs at the root of criminal systems and violent acts, ranging from terrorism to domestic violence.

In his key-note speech, Ahmad Alhendawi, United Nation’s Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, praised the San Patrignano model and its emphasis on social and community values in the rehabilitation process. ”The issue of drug use among young people is a real one, and the way San Patrignano is tackling it shows that when young people a given an opportunity, they can empower themselves and contribute to their communities,” Alhendawi said.

Among other speakers, we heard a strong presentation from Nicola Gratteri, Public Prosecutor and Magistrate in the frontlines of the war against Calabrian mafia organisation Ndrangheta, and living under police protection since 1989. He described Ndrangheta as the only ”globalized” mafia, operating in all five continents and claimed to have a revenue of McDonald’s and Deutsche Bank combined.

At the other end of the scale was Roberta Bruzzoni, criminologist, expert in forensic science and advisor to Telefono Rosa, (a helpline for victims of abuse against women and children), who through her work sees at first hand the results of often drug-induced domestic violence.

In connection with this year’s visit, the ECAD group also had a seminar on ”New Psychoactive Substances, synthetic opioids and Cannabinoids – A challenge for Europe?” with experts from Sweden (Kristina Hillgren) and Italy (Rita Santacroce). This was done within the framework of the ongoing Spice Alert Project in the Baltic Sea region and as a way of expanding the discussions` geography of the of NPS.

Many thanks to San Patrignano community for their hospitality on receiving us!