UAE: Kids as young as 15 get addicted to drugs, says official

Hesham Salah/Dubai
Filed on April 2, 2021
— Alamy

Parents' communication with children important in fight against drugs

Injection marks, anger and social withdrawal are some of the signs to watch out for among loved ones to determine drug abuse, an official has revealed.

Colonel Abdullah Matar Al Khayat, director of the Hemaya International Centre, said other signs include change in the size of the iris, anger or extremely relaxed demeanour by the addict, lack of grooming, sudden halt in activity and talking on intimate issues and topics. “Some children also prevent their parents from checking their personal stuff or entering their rooms, which could be a sign they are hiding drugs from their parents,” Al Khayat added.

The official said the age of addiction keeps coming down, adding that a report by the United Nations shows children aged 15 and younger are getting addicted.

Youth are particularly vulnerable to addiction, as they tend to try out new things such as smoking and drinking due to peer pressure. Bullying is another reason youth turn to drugs to prove others wrong.

Al Khayat said the most significant factor for addiction among youth are weak family ties and low social interaction. “The family is the first and most important influence on a child and if relations between parents and children are good, kids tend to confide in them on issues they may be facing. However, if parents don’t lend ear to their problems or ridicule them, the youth will start hiding their fears or problems from their parents,” Al Khayat said.

“Once after a lecture, a participant told me about an incident with his father. When he told his father that he had smoked, he was punished and his phone was taken away. The father refused to talk to him again,” Al Khayat said, pointing out that such a negative reaction could have proven disastrous. “If this young man had reacted wrongly, he would have turned into a heavy smoker, but luckily he doesn’t smoke anymore. How a family reacts to such situations could be the difference between addiction and rehabilitation,” he said.

Al Khayat said many youths tend to consider smoking as normal since they have grown up seeing their parents smoke. Smoking, he said, could push young men to try other stimulants including drugs such as hash or marijuana. Studies show smoking is a stepping stone towards drug use, he said.

Some youths get addicted to drugs such as methamphetamine once they use it to improve their focus, Al Khayat said. “Since this drug makes people hyperactive, some use it when they want to study, finish some work, or do some activity. However, this highly addictive drug can cause brain damage.”

He said parents can play a key role in the fight against drugs and communication with kids was vital. Parents must always talk to children or ask them to open up to someone close to them within the family or a friend, the official said.

Once addicts realise that their family or friends are listening to them, they might open up and seek help. This could spark a journey to rehabilitation and save their lives, Al Khayat noted.

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