The Gibraltar Government is building a National Drugs Database as part of a wider strategy to collect evidence of drug abuse in Gibraltar.
The database will be developed alongside research studies designed to collect data about the scale of drug misuse in this community as part of an evidence-based, bespoke response to the problem.
The move was announced during the last session of Parliament by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who has ministerial responsibility for the government’s drugs and alcohol strategy, but has received little public attention to date.
“We will be conducting a school-based survey among our secondary school students, which will be taking place early in the next academic year, as well as a wider drug prevalence survey,” Mr Picardo said at the time.
“We are also working with all stakeholders in creating a National Drugs Database.”
“We must acknowledge the important role the voluntary sector plays in minimising the harm that drugs and alcohol misuse causes.”
“They will be widely consulted and their views will form part of any strategic responses.”
Mr Picardo also praised the work of the professionals who work at Bruce’s Farm Rehabilitation Centre and within the community, and whose care has helped turn around many lives.
By way of example, he cited the case of an ex-patient of Bruce’s Farm who was currently undertaking a degree in addictions counselling funded by the Government of Gibraltar, adding that another person with similar background would follow the same course this September.
But he said more needed to be done.
“I intend to take this to another level [and] we will be expanding these services,” the Chief Minister said.
“This will make them even more responsive and accessible by developing a well-resourced team, in a purpose built facility within the community to augment the work done at Bruce’s Farm, which de-stigmatises substance dependency.”
Mr Picardo said the government’s drug services were in contact with well-respected experts in the field, who were providing advice on how best to develop this service.
Another element of the strategy will include a dedicated website to provide “an authoritative point of reference” on drugs and alcohol, and as an access point for help.
An awareness campaign on drugs and alcohol misuse will also be rolled out over the coming months, alongside a programme developed with educators that aims to deliver the drug awareness message in the most effective way possible.
In outlining the strategy to Parliament, Mr Picardo also reflected on the cannabis debate, which he described as “a fast developing area” in which there were many emerging opinions.
Gibraltar’s approach to this topic, he said, would be “one based on common sense”.
“The medicinal uses of cannabis and its derivatives is quite distinct from its recreational use, as is the cultivation of cannabis plants which are engineered to have no narcotic properties for a variety of legitimate uses,” Mr Picardo said at the time.
“We have embarked upon an exhaustive process of consultation and research into all these facets, which will allow us to develop clear unambiguous responses.”