x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

10-year-old knows all about drugs - and that's good news

Mohammed al Suwaidi, 10, receives award for launching educational campaign on the dangers of drug abuse.

Mohammed al Suwaidi started to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs at his school.
Mohammed al Suwaidi started to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs at his school.

ABU DHABI // Mohammed al Suwaidi's parents are not worried that their 10-year-old son knows more about marijuana and nicotine than most adults.

Yesterday, their child was awarded a trophy by the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) and got to meet his favourite sports star, Brazilian striker Baré from the Al Jazira football club.

"I think drugs are a very big problem," Mohammed said. "A lot of them look like candy, which misleads young people into thinking they are good. Smoking weed is another issue."

After conducting a survey among the older students at his school, Raha International, Mohammed decided that many of his peers did not know enough about drugs.

The results of his survey inspired him to launch a campaign about the dangers of drug abuse.

"After watching a TV show on drugs, I decided to survey the high school students," he said.

"I asked questions like 'what can you smoke: marijuana or steroids?', and 'is alcohol a drug?'. When I realised the gaps in their knowledge, I approached the NRC and asked them to give a presentation at school."

Along with the campaign he also raised Dh180 for the NRC at a bake sale, making him the youngest person to ever donate to the centre.

Saeed Mohammed al Mazrouei, chairman of the NRC, said he wanted more youngsters like Mohammed to become active.

"He did a great job collecting all that data for his project and raising awareness," he said. "Mohammed has helped further our own initiatives in this area."

Mr al Mazrouei said peer pressure and family issues were the main reasons why children resorted to drugs. The NRC recently launched the Fawasel initiative for schools in the capital, where experts from the centre hold sessions for teachers and students to raise awareness.

"We are very concerned about tobacco and certain pills that are used by teenagers without them understanding the side effects, and our programmes are trying to counter that," said Dr Hamad Abdallah al Ghaferi, the director general of the centre.

"One of the main reasons kids also get involved is because of bad relationships in the family and they start using to escape their problems."

Mohammed's father, Maktoum al Suwaidi, said parents played an important role in preventing addiction, too.

"Parents should know who their children hang out with," he said. "They should also be more open and discuss this matter with them so that they are not easily influenced by the wrong crowd."

aahmed@thenational.ae