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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

UAE Portrait of a Nation: Emirati scientist is 'last hope' for families with drug addicted relative

Dr Al Balooshi joined the Erada Centre for Treatment and Rehab after working at Dubai Police's forensic laboratory for almost a decade

Dr Younis Al Balooshi, Director of Awareness, Research and Public Relations, Erada Centre for Treatment and Rehab. Antonie Robertson / The National
Dr Younis Al Balooshi, Director of Awareness, Research and Public Relations, Erada Centre for Treatment and Rehab. Antonie Robertson / The National

It takes a strong man to bear the burden of being the last hope for desperate families seeking help for a drug addicted relative.

Younis Al Balooshi, who is the director of awareness, research and public relations at Erada Centre for Treatment and Rehab in Dubai, says he is often contacted by families who have run out of options.

“Sometimes, mothers and fathers of drugs addicts contact me seeking for help. In such cases, I leave everything behind and reschedule all my appointments to meet the family and the person suffering from the addiction,” says Dr Al Balooshi.

“They make me feel like I am there last hope and I do everything I can to help.”

Dr Al Balooshi, 38, joined the centre in 2016 after working for Dubai Police's forensic laboratory for almost a decade.

His desire to help some of the most vulnerable members of society developed after several years of studying forensic science and the effects of substance abuse on a person’s body.

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“An addict doesn’t choose to become addicted. Some become addicts after being hooked on painkillers or a type of medication they took after a medical procedure or due to an injury,” says Dr Al Balooshi, citing a case in the United States where a woman over the age of 70 developed a drug addiction after being prescribed a course of medicine.

His studies taught him to look beyond the superficial and tackle problems from a different perspective.

The Emirati was raised in Dubai where graduated from Al Safa High School with a score of 98 per cent.

In 1997, he studied general medicine at United Arab Emirates University and in 2005, Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan, head of security of the emirate of Dubai, sent Dr Al Balooshi to Germany to study forensic medicine at The University of Bonn.

There he studied under prominent forensic scientist professor Burkhard Madea for six years.

Throughout his career as a forensic scientist he was faced with crimes that seemed obvious at first glance, but upon further inspection, would reveal a surprising twist.

Of the cases he solved included a man who was thought to have committed suicide but was then found to have been murdered. He also studied the case of a child that died and found evidence to indicate the boy’s mother was responsible.

He would also deal with cases where a person died due to their drug addiction, a sobering reminder of what is to lose if he cannot help those who visit his rehabilitation centre.

But Dr Al Balooshi is adamant that recovery is never out of reach and tackling the issue begins with a mental change both from the addict and society.

“Developing a drug addiction isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a disease that takes more than willpower to overcome the problem and its causes,” he says.

“Abusing illegal substances causes devastating impact on the user’s whole family and causes deaths. However, the situation can be turned around and recovery is never out of reach.”

He says the onus is on the addict and their family to recognise the problem.

“Those drug users don’t believe that substance abuse is a problem. They are living in denial and develop different personalities than their old ones.

“People who deal with drug users, who I consider ill, don’t recognise that the person is suffering from a drug abuse problem,” he says.

“There are some situations when I meet the addict and he tries to convince me he is not an addict. I reach to a stage where I tell them just come to the centre for few days to show your mother that you’re not an addict.”

When asked about the stigma associated with drug addiction, Dr Al Balooshi says it is a global issue.

“Stigmatising drug addicts exists everywhere, including Germany. Authorities and workers at rehabilitation centres, including myself work and raise awareness to reduce the stigma and discrimination which surrounds.”

Dr Al Balooshi says the pressure of a stigma may keep some addicts from seeking help. “Community members must deal with drug addicts as a sick person.”

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Name: Younis Al Balooshi

Nationality: Emirati

Education: Doctorate degree in forensic medicine at the University of Bonn

Hobbies: Drawing and reading books about graphic design

The biog

Name: Younis Al Balooshi

Nationality: Emirati

Education: Doctorate degree in forensic medicine at the University of Bonn

Hobbies: Drawing and reading books about graphic design

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