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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 July 2018

Life-changing campaign gives hundreds of drug addicts in the UAE the chance of a brighter future

Police and families join forces to help addicts in Sharjah rebuild their lives

 

One mother has told of how her son's descent into drug addiction started with Tramadol. Keith Burdett
One mother has told of how her son's descent into drug addiction started with Tramadol. Keith Burdett

Hundreds of people battling drug addiction in Sharjah are getting their lives back on track - thanks to a forward-thinking initiative that puts the focus on rehabilitation over punishment.

A change in the anti-narcotics law, introduced at the end of 2016, means that offenders who are reported to the police, prosecutors or a rehabilitation centre by their families will face no penalty and will instead receive treatment until it is decided they made a suitable recovery and can be released.

Previously, this was only the case if the drug user handed themselves in.

The change in the law has inspired many worried family members to speak out and seek help from the authorities in order to help their relatives escape a life of despair.

One woman, 40, reported her son, 21, to Sharjah Police a few weeks ago. “I was hopeless. I reported him to police after learning that he could be placed in a rehabilitation centre, which will be safer for him than his own home,” said the woman, who holds a Comoros Islands passport.

“I believe he started consuming Tramadol a few months ago. A while ago I noticed a white powder in his room. I found out it was crystal meth and decided to report him to the anti-narcotics department at Sharjah Police. He promised a thousand times that he would not do it again. A promise that was broken so many times,” she said.

The 40-year-old woman placed her son in a rehabilitation centre. Officials at Sharjah Police co-ordinated with a rehabilitation centre and the young man is now being treated, offering a beacon of hope in a dark time.

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Read more:

Drugs law changes shifted focus to rehabilitation rather than punishment

New UAE law brings options for first-time drug offenders

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A 47-year-old Emirati who is a former drug addict said it was essential for families of addicts to understand the complex role they can play to help their loved ones.

"Yousef" was just 17 when he started using hashish (cannabis resin) but this quickly led to harder drugs, such as heroin. Yousef, who prefers to remain anonymous, thought he was smoking regular cigarettes until he found out that one of his friends was rolling hashish into them.

“I did not want to look weak or less manly than my other friends. I continued smoking with them until it quickly led to consuming heroin,” said Yousef.

“When police arrested me, I realised I was lost,” he said.

Police arrested Yousef for consuming and dealing drugs. At that time, he was in his twenties.

“I was sentenced to seven years, which was reduced to four years after appeal,” said Yousef.

“I wanted to start a new chapter in life and learn how to overcome some common concerns without drugs. However, my life was so empty and I started consuming drugs again, especially after my mother got sick. She suffered from a paralysis attack and lost the ability to walk,” he said.

Yousef was admitted to a hospital in Dubai to overcome addiction and cope with withdrawal symptoms.

“I got back on my feet, started a new career and now I help drug addicts at rehabilitation centres,” he said.

Yousef said families must be involved in the drug treatment process. “Families must accept that their loved ones became drug addicts. It’s a disease that must be treated,” he said.

Mr Yousef believes that recovering addicts must be involved in others' treatment.

About 275 addicts have been provided with rehabilitation services in Sharjah, police said.

The recovering drug users are of various nationalities, but most have ended up on the same successful road to recovery.

"Out of these, 261 inmates have fully recovered, while 14 cases resumed their addiction” said Col Ahmed Suhail, director of the Punitive and Correctional Establishments at Sharjah Police.

Col Suhail said the recovered inmates underwent a rehabilitation programme, called "to recover", implemented by Sharjah Police.

“The addiction rehab process is a well-studied programme that was designed by Sharjah Police to help drug inmates recover and integrate into mainstream society,” Col Suhail said.

“The three-month rehab programme aims to raise the awareness of drug addicts who serve jail terms and provide early treatment for abusers of psychotropic substances before their release and reintegration into society,” said Col Suhail.