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How UAE helps drug addicts kick habit and get back on feet

Dubai - The UAE has adopted a multi-pronged approach in fighting the drug menace.

By Hesham Salah

Published: Sat 27 Mar 2021, 10:45 PM

While the UAE is determined to go all out in eradicating drugs, the authorities are just as committed to helping addicts get back on their feet and start anew. Walking Khaleej Times through the rehabilitation process, a top officer in Dubai stressed that in the country, victims of substance abuse who come forward for help get all the support they need to beat addiction.

Colonel Abdullah Matar Al Khayat, director of the Hemaya International Centre, said addiction could begin with something as simple as trying out a drug for that one-off experience or under peer pressure. Before one even realises it, he or she is hooked, sometimes for life.

If one does find himself in such a situation, it’s not yet too late to get treatment. Urging addicts and their families to seek help, Col Al Khayat said: “They can come forward without fear of any criminal proceedings. Addicts who voluntarily present themselves to authorities for treatment will not be punished.”

The UAE has adopted a multi-pronged approach in fighting the drug menace. This includes public awareness campaigns, stringent laws against drug traffickers, and the strong rehabilitation programme.

Based on the cases that the Hemaya rehab centre has handled, people become addicts in two ways, Col Al Khayat said. “One was by trying drugs that are made for individual use, usually made from Cannabidaceae or chemicals. The second way is by using medicines, usually strong pain killers, where users could end up being dependant.”

There had been several cases of people getting addicted to medicines like Lyrica or Tramadol, he added.

There are two types of addiction as well, he said. One is mental, where the craving is in the mind, and the other is when the body gets used to drugs and cannot function without it. The latter, he said, is the strongest type of addiction.

When an addict is caught using drugs for the first time, the UAE authorities may apply Article 43, which states that no criminal proceedings shall be instituted against the person if he or she seeks help.

Instead of a punishment, the individual undergoes therapy which includes medical consultation, examination, treatment and rehabilitation and integration.

“The ideal way of dealing with addicts is taking him/her for a medical test, and depending on the drug type, the medical team decides on the mode of treatment, and how to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Addicts are usually kept at treatment centres for three weeks, going up to three months, depending on the case,” Col Al Khayat said.

He said these centres exercise complete confidentiality when dealing with cases so that addicts and their families can go about their normal lives, adding that they continue to monitor and work with the person to prevent readdiction.

During the course of rehab, the person must follow periodic tests for specific time periods — usually monthly tests for one year. However, if the authorities suspect something, they may subject the addict to random tests. Urine samples are tested for drug use.

“If the addict fails to turn up for random tests or misses periodic tests — or if tests come back positive — the person will be referred to court and face trial. He or she could end up being jailed for up to 2 years,” Col Al Khayat said.


Col Abdulla Hassan Matar Al Khayat, Director of Hemaya International Center. KT Photo: Juidin Bernarrd
Col Abdulla Hassan Matar Al Khayat, Director of Hemaya International Center. KT Photo: Juidin Bernarrd

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