In a conference organised by the Mouvement Patriotique earlier this week, addiction specialists David Mété and Uvarajen Paratian sought to dismiss preconceived notions around the subject matter and give their unabated perspective on drug policy in Mauritius.
In front of his audience at the Nelson Mandela Complex in Quatre Bornes, Mété started off by arguing that he was not representing any political interests but would give his honest opinion on the issues at stake. "There is no society without drugs and there probably never will be," he said. "Whether we want it or not, we have to do with it and look for ways to better deal with it."
Mété was also keen to point out that the stigmatisation around drug users was only helping those making money out of this vicious circle. "Addiction is a disease; it is not a vice or a choice," he said. "The best way to deal with that disease is with long-term medical treatments and not short-term solutions like a detox."
Speaking of those treatments, he instinctively brought up the methadone imbroglio in Mauritius. "I remember talking to Anil Gayan when he was the minister of health and he told me his model for drug policy was Vladimir Putin" said Mété. "Russia is a country with a serious lack of medical treatments for drug users." As a result, the addiction specialist congratulated Anwar Husnoo, who replaced Gayan as minister of health, for bringing back the methadone treatment programme.
Paratian then joined Mété in calling for more leniency for drug users by adopting an approach of decriminalisation. "Drug addiction is a disease so users cannot be treated like criminals," said Paratian. He also lamented the fact that synthetic drugs were gaining ground in the island. "How many young people were supposed to be still among us today but were lost to synthetic drugs?"
Those present, including social worker Ally Lazer, were also allowed to voice their opinions. Many of them argued that Gayan, in his time as minister of health, had taken them several steps back in the struggle against the proliferation of drugs in the country and the treatment of addiction.