Officials at Abu Dhabi's National Rehabilitation Centre say there is a need for qualified medical staff who can spot substance abuse before it becomes an addiction.
Medics needed to treat addictions
ABU DHABI // The UAE desperately needs more health professionals trained to deal with drug and alcohol addiction, according to the director of medical affairs at Abu Dhabi's National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC).
Speaking ahead of a regional substance abuse workshop that begins today in the capital, Tarek Abdel Jawad said the shortage was not limited to the Emirates, but was a worldwide problem.
"In the field of substance abuse we are severely lacking skilful people," said Mr Jawad.
"From psychiatrists to psychologists, and social workers to nurses, we need a multidisciplinary team for this multifaceted problem."
Delegates from 23 countries are attending the three-day "train the trainer" workshop on the management of alcohol and substance abuse to learn more effective methods of preventing, diagnosing and treating patients.
Prof Thomas F Babor, the chairman of the University of Connecticut Health Center, said the trainees "are going to go back to their own communities to train other people".
The workshops will also help professionals to spot the signs of substance abuse before they become fully developed addictions.
"If someone has an accident, and it appears they are disorientated, then the doctor managing them needs to properly diagnose them," Prof Babor said. He added that doctors needed to be able to recognise the difference between a one-off and a repeat occurrence.
Gaining new ground in this arena was imperative, said Dr Ali Hassan Al Marzooqi, the manager of the surveillance and advocacy section at the NRC. He said that in the UAE "substance abuse has not been looked at in a detailed way".
Exposure to a multitude of different cultures, drug trafficking, and an increase in tourism had all added to the problem, he said, and needed to be better assessed.
The NRC organised the workshop in cooperation with the World Health Organization.
The centre also plans to push forward in creating a database to measure the extent of substance abuse in the UAE.
"Drug addicts are not criminals," said Dr Al Marzooqi. "They are victims of certain situations that have led them to experience drugs. We need to reduce the stigma of drug addicts and to reintegrate them."