Abu Dhabi conference on drug and substance abuse kicks off

Experts from all over the world to share findings on how to tackle substance abuse and disorders


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Published: Thu 12 May 2022, 6:01 PM

A major conference tackling drug abuse and addiction, and seeking to build a global network of partnerships between organisations and specialists in the field of substance use and disorders, kicked off in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

Running until May 16, the event at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre is being hosted by the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in partnership with the US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

Speaking at the inauguration, Sean Murphy, Charge Affairs: Department of State: Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) said drug addiction is a big challenge which requires a global coordinated response in its prevention and treatment.

“People who suffer from substance disorders deserve compassion and care throughout the recovery process,” said Murphy.

“The International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP) has been instrumental in uniting the global workforce to integrate the latest learning and mandates to support substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services in transforming research into practice.”

“The National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in Abu Dhabi is on the forefront of addiction prevention and treatment. The NRC is a true model for the region and for the world and boosts a world-class gap and facility.”

Murphy added: “A US domestic crisis makes our partnership with the UAE and other nations crucial. Reducing job demand worldwide is an essential pillar of a comprehensive approach to combating this crisis.

“My colleagues at the Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs are leading the government’s worldwide efforts to combat drug demand.”

The expert noted that in countries all over the world, the US State Department partners with local governments and civil societies to create specialised training programmes such as the Universal Curriculum to prevent drug use and to treat those with substance use disorders.

“This programme trains prevention and treatment staff and empower trainers to raise standards of care in their own communities,” explained Murphy.

Dr. Hamad Abdullah Al Ghafri, Director-General of the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in Abu Dhabi said drug abuse and addiction is a major problem that affects every nation.

“The UAE is keen on providing the latest medical practices and techniques based on scientific research and innovation in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of substance use,” he said.

Need for a universal curriculum

Kevin Mulvey, from the International Consortium of Universities for Drug Demand Reduction urged universities around the world to get together and develop a universal curriculum on how to deal with issues of drug abuse and addicts.

“Through a consortium connection of universities, we can build curriculum and training to help enable the professions to best handle and best deal with issues faced by those suffering from drug dependency,” said Mulvey.

An official from the World Health Organisation (WHO) said one of few health targets for the international community sustainable development goals 2030 adopted in 2015 is devoted to specially substance abuse; namely to strengthen, prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

“All nations have the responsibility for making progress on achieving this health target. Now it is a critical period when we need to deliver on commitments made by the governments, international organisations, professionals, and the international community at large to strengthen prevention and treatment of substance abuse,” said the official.

Youths need to be involved

Mohammed Hussein, a youth leader from Sri Lanka said it was important to put into account young people’s aspirations and challenges when discussing a development framework of substance abuse.

“Youths should be recognised as partners in developing and implementing substance abuse and prevention strategies and incorporate their concerns in all aspects of planning, implementation and evaluation,” he said adding that it was important to find means on how to connect with young people and how they can be engaged meaningfully, guide them through the journey and also involve them as leaders of today and tomorrow.

Hussein noted that it was high time to realise the true potential of young people.

“It is time to dedicate resources in our organisations to prioritise young people in all our programmes. Young people should be engaged in organisations meaningfully and should be given opportunities, so they are able to realise their true potential,” he added.


Hosted for the first time in the Middle East and North Africa region, the conference has attracted more than 1,000 specialists and researchers in the fields of substance use disorders from all over the world.

The five-day event has brought the latest learnings from the fields of substance use, prevention, treatment, and recovery support.

The conference is focusing on the theme of the “Uniting the global community to face the challenge of addiction”.


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