Request comes after Abu Dhabi plans American-style system
Dubai rehab doctors want to see addicts handled by specialist drug courts
Specialist drug courts with a focus on treatment rather than punishment would help more users to beat their addiction, a group of rehab doctors have said.
“Drug addicts need help not punishment,” said Dr Abdulqadar Al Khayat, chairman of Dubai's government-run Erada Rehabilitation and Treatment Centre.
At a press conference and tour of the facility yesterday, doctors said they have asked the authorities to look at introducing such courts.
Last week, Abu Dhabi's judicial authority said a rise in the number of people caught using drugs is adding greater need for a specialised justice system and dedicated courts for the emirate.
Dr Al Khayat, who called on Dubai to follow suit, said that placing drug addicts in jail hasn't cut the number of users, or helped to get them clean.
“Penalties, including jail terms, for drug offenders has not tackled the problem. However, treating drug users in rehabilitation centres will bring them back as positive members in the community,” he said. “We are calling on the competent authorities to launch a specialised justice system and dedicated drug courts in Dubai."
There are about 200 people aged between 17-70 currently being treated at the centre. The vast majority are men but there are 11 women.
Specialised courts are staffed by judges and prosecutors that closely monitor and test users to ensure they are getting clean.
Dr Al Khayat said that there is a need medically addicts every two weeks.
“Around 70 per cent of drug users arrested and placed in jail return back to drug addiction after being released. Therefore, I consider drug addiction as an illness that needs to be treated rather than being punished. Jail is not the solution,” said Dr Al Khayat.
Dr Al Khayat said there should be more rehabilitation centres around the country.
“There is a rising number of drug users not only in the United Arab Emirates, but also in the whole world. There are around a dozen of people on the waiting list for Erada Rehabilitation and Treatment Centre,” he said.
He referenced statistics from Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, reported by The National last week, that showed there were 721 cases involving the consumption of drugs between October 2015 and September 2016. This rose to 925 between October 2016 and September 2017.
“An similar number of drug cases took place in Dubai as well,” Dr Al Khayat said.
The doctors of the rehab centre see users coming in hooked on a variety of drugs, from opiates to legal highs.
“Spice mixed with chemicals is among the recent trends that we dealt with,” said Dr Al Khayat in reference to the so-called 'zombie drug', which reduces users to a semi-comatose state almost instantly.
Dr Mohammed Fayek, chief executive officersf the centre, added: “Crystal meth is among the used drug substances.”
Last weekend, as the International Society of Addiction Medicine's global conference met in Abu Dhabi, medics from the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), also charted the rise of gabapentin and pregabalin, overtaking the controlled painkiller tramadol.
Drug courts would be assisted by a judicial panel and doctors would evaluate drug users’ conditions, to ensure progress was being made.
“Tackling the drug problem from its roots and educating drug users will make a difference, and a new drug centre will open next week for women suffering from drug addiction,” said Dr Al Khayat.
“Some women were being treated here before, but we found that there was a need to open a centre for women."
Dr Al Khayat said that the financial cost for treating a drug user is much less than jailing him/her.
“The cost of providing clothes, food and health care for prisoner is around Dh500 [per day]. While it costs much less in treatment centre," he added. Previous estimates suggest about Dh100 per day.
The Erada Rehabilitation and Treatment Centre first opened in Dubai's Al Khawaneej district in January.