WHO bare data about substance abuse showed worrying numbers: 31 million people worldwide having any drug use disorder, 11 million injecting drugs. Data are scaring per se, but even more alarming when linked to the implications of such disorders: communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, closely related to the use of injectable drugs, show extremely high numbers at the global level, with 1.3 million of drug addicted people suffering from HIV, 5.5 million from hepatitis C and 1 million from both diseases.
Italy does not represent an exception to this trend: according to the Ministry of the Interior statistics, Italy is the third and forth UE member for cocaine and cannabis abuse, respectively. The main discriminant is the age of addicted: while 1 out of 5 Italian youths (i.e. between 15 and 34 years old) has used cannabis at least once in his life, this is not the case for cocaine, which is used by 1.9% of them in this specific time span and by 6.8% of Italians in the entire life.
Beyond numbers, drug abuse is a public issue affecting a number of aspects of a country’s life: it has consequences on safety for the entire population, on illegal commerce of substances, on the diffusion of diseases, as mentioned above, and many other effects. But first of all this is an individual issue, at the person level as well as at the family level: I heard the story of a young girl, about to complete her rehabilitation in the community, she was telling about the time when her mother “kidnapped” her from the street were she was using heroine. “She kidnapped me and she brought me home; if she hadn’t do this, I wouldn’t have been here now, I would have died, I know”. But that mother was brave, she was strong enough to fight against something which seems insurmountable to the most: many parents, many families, don’t have the instruments, or the knowledge, or the strength, or none of these factors, to realize that is really happening, nor to fight against it, to fight against their children, apparently. During the walk in San Patrignano I happened to see hugs between parents and children, probably after a long time, and contacts between guests of the community and external visitors come for the event: it was interesting to observe that in the contact with people from outside those guys were realizing their deep change in the way they interact with others. These communities are called communities of social rehabilitation: as often mentioned, drug abuse make people loose any contact with their surrounding environment, unable and unwilling to be part of that context; such structures make them able again to enjoy relations, and people, and their ability to participate to social life around them. About 16.000 people are hosted in socio-rehabilitative structures in Italy, of which San Patrignano is one of the main examples, with some 1.300 guests: the number of these places is increasing, with a prevalence of Northern Regions (Lombardia, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto) and a tendency to spread the presence of communities in the territory. The aim seems to be more an attempt to keep people close to their environment, easing their way back in the society after the rehabilitation, than an isolation of mental illnesses in restricted areas: the journey usually consists of an initial period of isolation from the external environment, under the guide and supervision of an “older” person living in the community, working on one of the several activities carried out there; gradually, they are guided and encouraged to regain contacts with people outside, up to the time when they are considered aware and safe enough to go out for longer and longer periods of time.
WeFree is not only San Patrignano, it is not only a project: let us be free, the all of us, let us take any opportunity to raise our awareness, our friends and families’ knowledge about drug addiction, how to avoid and how to face it. Any face I saw that day, guys living in or leaving the community, those already gone and just come back to see the others for the event, those working there and helping lunch at the restaurant, and those just meeting their parents after a long time: all those faces told us, running or walking among their places, that they were not very different from any other guy outside, they used to live a variety of different lives which happened to meet each other in a deadly way. Let us be free to talk about it, to be informed about causes and consequences, about stories and people who are not far from our daily life.