x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Drug awareness is important weapon in fight against addiction

Viewing foreign media as the main culprit for the rise in drug addiction among the young abdicates responsibility for parents, who should be aware of and be able to monitor what their children are exposed to.

Television. Western influence. Video games. Modern music. When it comes to finding scapegoats for the rise in drug use among our children, reasons are bountiful as they are vague.

As The National reports today, almost three quarters of UAE residents surveyed by YouGov/Siraj for Al Aan TV and Nabd Al Arab believe drug use among the country's youth is increasing. Outside influences, such as the ones mentioned above, bear the brunt of the blame, according to those surveyed.

Awareness is one of the keys to combatting this ill. Campaigns in schools could be particularly effective, with three in four of those surveyed agreeing that Arab countries should begin drug education in kindergarten. "There needs to be more awareness in schools," said Sultan al Moazin, the head of the Federal National Council's health and social affairs committee and an official for the Fujairah police. "Also, the family plays a big role. People need to go back to their religion, which tells them they should stay away from all kinds of addiction."

Mr al Moazin's comments differ from the widely held view that outside influences are solely to blame. And rightly so. Viewing foreign media as the main culprit is erroneous and abdicates responsibility for parents, who should be aware of and be able to monitor what their children are exposed to. Conversely, many young people turn to drugs out of boredom, either because they lack access to entertainment or activities to participate in - an area in which parents can also intervene.

Tighter measures by the government can certainly curtail drug use. Some, like stricter control on the sales of prescription pills, are relatively easy. Others, like clamping down on trafficking of narcotics, are far more complex to tackle and need international cooperation.

But at home, the government can start by being open about drug addiction, which still remains a taboo in many circles. While punishment for users and traffickers can deter supply, efforts to deter demand often require breaching social, not legal, parameters. Many addicts fear that admitting their problems will result in lengthy prison sentences rather than rehabilitation.

Coming clean should be welcomed and encouraged, not punished.