Emiratis choose overseas resorts to treat drug, alcohol addiction

Kelly Clarke /Dubai Filed on October 9, 2015 | Last updated on February 21, 2016 at 08.18 pm
Emiratis choose overseas resorts to treat drug, alcohol addiction
Sebastian Schade, CEO, Asia Health Co. Ltd at the International Medical Travel Exhibition and Conference 2015 at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Wednesday, October 7, 2015.

(Dhes Handumon)

With few facilities to treat addiction available in the UAE, could overseas rehabilitation resorts be the best alternative?

Each year, between 45 and 75 Emirati nationals travel to a specialised resort in Thailand to receive drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Talk of drug and alcohol abuse is little discussed in the Middle East. But in recent years, the Dubai Police and government health officials have been moving past the stigma surrounding drink and drug-addiction.

However, with few facilities to treat such addiction available in the UAE, could overseas rehabilitation resorts be the best alternative in a region where drug addiction is still taboo? The promotion of anonymity would suggest so.

In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times at the International Medical Travel Exhibition & Conference (IMTEC), Sebastian Schade, CEO of Dara Thailand - a drug and alcohol rehabilitation resort - said about 10-15 per cent of its client base are Emirati.

"We have been in operation for five years. Each year we cater to between 450-500 clients and about 10 to 15 per cent of them are Emirati, but this particular patient base is strongly growing."

Schade said addiction is a disease and without intervention, it can easily escalate. And the reason he believes the demand from here is growing, is simple.

"I think Emiratis struggling with addiction feel safe when treated abroad. That is simply because culturally speaking, addiction is little talked about in this region so people find it hard to admit they have an addiction. We offer anonymity to our clients, that is our biggest appeal."

He said addiction is a disease that affects people from all cultures, societies and backgrounds. So addressing the issue sooner rather than later promotes a smoother rehabilitation process.

"There are not so many outreach programmes in the UAE because of the sensitive nature surrounding addiction. It is improving though and in time I am confident we will see more rehabilitation centres here."

But for now, overseas resorts may be the remedy to a solution which is still paving its way here.

"We are not here to highlight a problem with addiction in the UAE. Statistics do not suggest numbers are out of control. We are simply here to say, if you have a problem, we are here to help, no matter who you are," Schade said.

Treatment programme

A four week, all-inclusive addiction treatment programme at Dara Thailand costs $4,995. In a bid to make such programmes accessible to everyone, the resort subsidises more than 60 per cent of the cost of the all-inclusive 4-week programme, bringing it down from $15,000 to $4,995. Employing a comprehensive and personalised approach to recovery, Dara uses a mix of effective therapeutic methodologies for treating addiction at two centres staffed by full-time, internationally certified therapists.

Programmes vary on a case to case basis and can extend beyond the initial four-week period.

Tackling the issue

Back in 2013, the Community Development Authority (CDA) launched its 'Ownak' service - a social rehabilitation centre for recovering drug addicts. Within its first eight months it had registered 74 clients and it continues to go from strength to strength today.

Speaking to Khaleej Times following Ownak's launch, CDA's director-general Khaled Al Kamda revealed that 419 young individuals were struggling with drug abuse in 2013. He said if the trend continued, the number could rise by more than a third (33.8 per cent), to 561 by 2022, and stressed the importance of early intervention here.

Also, the National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi offers rehab services to build patients' personal skills and self-confidence to survive all types of addiction.


Kelly Clarke

Originally from the UK, Kelly Clarke joined Khaleej Times in November 2012. She has a keen interest in humanitarian issues and took over as the dedicated Education Reporter in August 2016. In her spare time she loves to travel off the beaten track, and often write about her quirky experiences of pastures new. Kelly received her BA Honours in Journalism from Middlesex University, UK in 2008. Before joining Khaleej Times she worked as a Supervising Editor for three Healthcare titles in London. @KellyAnn_Clarke

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