x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Scourge of crystal meth is new threat

It is alarming that Dubai police are seizing increased amounts of the drug called crystal meth; the implication is that more is getting into the country, too, and this drug relentlessly destroys lives.

Twisted faces and the deep scars of addiction: these are the signs of a crystal methamphetamine epidemic. Fortunately such marks of drugs dependency - as seen on the American website www.facesofmeth.us -have not yet washed up in any great numbers on the shores of the UAE. And yet, news that police in Dubai are seizing more of this highly addictive drug should sound an alarm.

As The National reported yesterday, more than 122 kilograms of "crystal meth" was seized by Customs in the first five months of 2011. That's nearly triple the amount seized in all of last year.

Where this poison is headed, and where it came from, has not been made public; unlike many other addictive drugs, amphetamines can be produced almost anywhere. But the spike in seizures nonetheless suggests that regionally demand is rising.

Dubai police should be lauded for their crackdown and programme to disrupt these drug flows. But police alone cannot win this battle against this devastating substance.

What's most troubling is that crystal meth's cousin is already here in force. Health authorities reported last month that another highly addictive amphetamine - from the same family as crystal meth - is being abused in pill form across the Emirates. It may only be a matter of time before some users turn to even worse alternatives.

The effects could be far reaching. Crystal methamphetamine is a stimulant that increases adrenaline and releases dopamine. Over time, a user's dopamine receptors are damaged, making it impossible for the user to feel any sense of pleasure without more drugs. Thus, the vicious cycle continues.

But it is on the social level that such drugs can be the most damaging. Because meth users are more likely to commit crimes to keep their high going, no one is spared this drug's wrath. Not just in the United States, but in Europe and Asia as well, communities have been ripped part at the seams.

Drug abuse has many solutions. Good police work is one. But treatment of addicts is also essential. Drug users who report their problem should be given help, in hospital, without being targeted for arrest.

Education about crystal meth and other types of drugs must begin before addiction takes hold. Afterwards, it may be too late.