x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE needs addiction fund, study says

he UAE needs a fund dedicated to controlling addiction in the country, according to an assessment by Abu Dhabi Police's Centre for Research and Security Studies.

ABU DHABI // The UAE needs a fund dedicated to controlling addiction in the country, according to an assessment by Abu Dhabi Police's Centre for Research and Security Studies. In the study, entitled Criminal Handling of Addicts: Punishment and Treatment, Dr Mustafa al Taher highlighted the UAE's efforts in countering drug use and addiction, but suggested that other measures and resources were required.

A national fund would give authorities the tools they needed to gather information and build an accurate picture of the addiction problem in the UAE, he said, according to the state news agency, WAM. He called for the current use of stringent penalties for drug use to be maintained, but stressed that addicts should be given access to treatment. The UAE already has a programme, operated at the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in Abu Dhabi, that treats addiction and helps to reintegrate addicts into society, but it does so only for Emiratis.

Dr Hamad al Ghaferi, the NRC's director general, said earlier this year that the centre was collecting data and conducting studies to further understand addiction in the UAE and identify which groups were particularly at risk. Historically, the Emirates have dealt with drug use almost entirely as a criminal matter. Under the country's strict criminal laws, those caught using drugs can face long prison terms and heavy fines.

However, federal law allows Emirati addicts to circumvent prosecution if they voluntarily seek treatment at a rehabilitation centre or approach the Public Prosecution asking to receive treatment. They must remain in treatment and rehabilitation for at least three years. The shield against prosecution is lifted if the addict fails to hand over any drugs in his or her possession. Dr al Taher also saw a role for religious leaders in the campaign against drug use.

Their moral power could be help to dissuade people from becoming involved with drugs in the first place, he said. @Email:rruiz@thenational.ae