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Arab world has 400,000 drug addicts


By Mona Ahmed

Staff Reporter


Dubai: The Arab world has more than 400,000 drug addicts, a UN representative said yesterday during the Work Together for Effective Prevention of Drugs workshop.


The two-day event is being held at the Dubai Officers Club. It was organised by the Mentor Foundation, an international foundation that focuses on the prevention of drug abuse, in partnership with Dubai Police.


"The abuse of narcotics is a major problem worldwide and is creating a serious threat both for families and nations. This problem needs strong and effective cooperation from government and non-government organisations that work in the field of narcotics prevention," said Mohammad Abdul Aziz, regional representative of the United Nations office for narcotics and crime.


Highlighting the nature of the menace, Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai Police Chief, said: "Drug smuggling and drug dealing are threatening the future of the younger generation and the future of Arab countries."


"We are fast moving into an era where political and administrative barriers are disappearing and where there is the spread of many social problems, such as pollution and poverty and such phenomena as terrorism," Dahi said.


He said that is why international efforts to curb the growing misuse of narcotics have increased.


"All government and local authorities are working hard to cooperate and control this problem." According to him, Dubai Police's prevention programme for narcotics and drugs addicts is well established.


The drugs workshop tries to spread awareness regarding the importance of preventing drug addiction and highlights the role of international and Arab associations in the field of drug control and prevention. It also addresses the need for the Arab world to fight the spread of narcotics. A workable plan to achieve drug prevention will also be discussed.


According to the International Drug Addiction Report 2004, the total number of drugs addicts in the world in 2003 was about 185 million, an increase of five million since 2000.


Abdul Aziz said that hashish and marijuana were among the top narcotics used around the world, with the total number of addicts numbering about 150 million.


"Other types of narcotics are mainly used by young people.


"In this category, heroin is at the top of the list, with more than nine million addicts either inhaling or injecting the drug. This opens up another problem - the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.


"About 13 million people are cocaine addicts and international estimates show that 0.5 per cent of young drug addicts take either cocaine or heroin," he said.


He said drug addiction affected both men and women and most addicts are 20 to 30 years old.


"The rise in the misuse of narcotics is scary with more than 400,000 drug addicts in the Arab world."


He said it was difficult to establish a link between the use of narcotics and HIV because of the lack of testing among addicts, increasing the chance of their spreading the disease.


"We have signed an agreement for drug control with the UAE and an office will be based in Abu Dhabi. This office aims to support the drug control authorities in the GCC countries and was the result of the efforts of Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior," he said.


There should be stronger cooperation between government and non-government organisations to stop the problem, he said. It was here that the role of an effective organisation, such as Mentor, came under the spotlight, he said.


Esmail Al Qarani, director of the drug control department in Libya, said: "The misuse of narcotics has harmful consequences, including crime, physical assault, social problems and rape. Silence against narcotics is wrong because it is affecting the whole world."


There was no clear data on the size of the problem in the Arab world, he said. "Arab countries are not cooperating in the sense that there is no sharing of information," he said.


He also said that drugs sold nowadays were impure. "The drugs are mixed with animal bones and all this is destroying the countries' youth. We should implement a practical work plan to control this problem," he said.

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