Lebanon - Filling the gap: Meeting the needs for treatment of substance users and treatment centres

21 June 2011

Over the last 15 years, substance use has been a steadily growing phenomenon in Lebanon. NGOs dedicated to services for substance users have increased in number and size. The Narcotics law was revised in 1998 as such: decriminalizing drug addiction, outlining the role of the Drug Addiction Committee, encouraging the Ministry of Public Health to create a national treatment facility, as well as laying the outline for diversionary justice measures. This law was the first action towards bringing drug dependence into the realm of a social and health problem.

However, tackling substance dependence through treatment instead of punishment is still one of the most critical issues in Lebanon. In 2008, Skoun, Lebanese Addiction Center, launched the project "For a Greater Respect for the Rights of Drug Addicts" to analyse why the 1998 law is still scarcely applied, working with the police force and judicial system to sensitize them on the nature of drug dependence and effectiveness of treatment versus incarceration.

Following this, work has begun with many judges and NGOs representatives to create a referral system from the courts to service providers to pilot and evaluate the effectiveness of court referrals and mandated treatment. With the support of MedNET-Pompidou Group and in partnership with dedicated NGOs-AJEM, JCD, SIDC, Nusroto Cenacle du fils de l'Homme, Bonheur du Ciel- Skoun also initiated its advocacy work in 2010 through its "Filling the Gap: Meeting the Needs for Treatment and Treatment Centers in Lebanon" project whose overall objective is two-fold:

  • Skoun hosted a learning tour to France organized by the French Embassy in Lebanon in coordination with Mission Interministerielle de Lutte contre la Drogue et la Toxicomanie (MILDT). Lebanese judges, representatives from the judicial police, NGOs representatives and lawyers visited French officials and toured state legal and health facilities to gain firsthand knowledge of the French model. The objective of the tour was to observe and learn from a successful existing system regarding addiction as a healthcare issue, in terms of the various legal resources that can be taken as well as possible treatment modalities. This informed Lebanese representatives on how to adapt a referral system within the Lebanese country context.
  • Skoun hosted round tables with judges, lawyers, doctors, NGOs representatives and substance users for the creation of a proposal for suggested amendments and changes to the existing Narcotics Law. The amendment suggestions will serve to allow for the increased understanding that addiction is a mainstream healthcare issue and that different facilities and services need to be in place in order to address the needs of substance users.

These initiatives will contribute to the field of drug dependence by helping prevention practitioners, public and private institutions as well as clinical experts working with substance users create and design targeted interventions, programs and services to protect the rights of substance users and address the issue of substance use and abuse among the community at large.

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