Part of the treatment method, created by the US-based Matrix Institute on Addictions, focuses on education and training staff to deal with relapses.
Drug addicts to be treated through outpatient service
A system to help treat drug abusers will be launched by the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) this year.
There is no conclusive data on the number of addicts in the UAE but an extensive study on the prevalence of abuse - both drugs and alcohol - is due to be published at the end of the year.
Created by the Matrix Institute on Addictions, first introduced in Los Angeles in 1984, the Matrix Model aims to rehabilitate addicts through an outpatient service.
Staff from the NRC will travel to the United States in June to begin their training. The treatment method, part of which focuses on education and training staff to deal with relapses, will be introduced as part of the NRC's plans to expand its outpatient service this year, said Dr Tarek Gawad, the medical director.
A 200-bed facility in Khalifa City A is also due for completion in 2014.
Seventy-seven beds are currently available for inpatients.
Given the UAE's close proximity to Afghanistan, the availability of heroin is a problem, said Professor Richard Rawson, the associate director for the University of California's integrated substance abuse programme.
Tramadol, a post-operative painkiller, is also a concern, said the professor, who visited the NRC this week to assess its ability to adopt the Matrix programme.
By treating more people as outpatients, the turnover would be higher, resulting in more patients being seen, he added. If the model follows the same path it has taken in the US, it would also save the healthcare industry financially, said Prof Rawson. "In the US, the average outpatient episode is about US$5,000 [Dh18,365]. For an inpatient, this will be about $30,000 to $40,000," he said.
About 80 per cent of treatment in Britain, the US and Australia is carried out on an outpatient basis.
Criteria used to establish whether someone is treated as an outpatient or inpatient can include the history of their addiction, its severity and their social support network. The model would be adapted to fit the UAE.
"Here, we know there is more emphasis on family. Here, we know we have to engage the family [in the treatment model]," said Prof Rawson.