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Powered by, one of the most popular daily English language newspapers in the United Arab Emirates.

Drugs: road to a dead end

08/16/2009 11:30 PM

The journey of his life starts today as he needs to maintain a clean record which was stained by drug addiction and trafficking starting at the age of 16. Today, he is a 25-year-old man looking for opportunities in life just like anyone his age, but his biggest challenge is facing the social stigma of being a former drug addict.

Y.M, an Emirati, grew up among five older brothers working in Dubai Police and a single-parent father. His parents were divorced when Y.M. was only a couple of months old.

"I never knew my Omani mother and never bothered to know about her. I saw her for the first time when she visited me in jail and that was also the last time," he said.

Over the years Y.M gained expertise in the different types of drugs consumed and as well as ways to traffick them, which he attributes to his naiivity and the wrong choice of friends.

"I am responsible for what happened to me but the people who dragged me onto this road knew how to pull me into the cycle of addiction and selling drugs," he said.

The strong effect of the heroin and the lure of the money gained from selling drugs are addictive. "It was easy money ... it helped me buy my drugs. A couple of times I collected Dh4,000 a day and the highest I got was Dh10,500 a week," he said.

According to him, during his prime years of addiction he did not feel a sense of guilt, affection, or responsibility, adding "My brothers should have reported me to the police when they first found pills of heroin in my room. But they only hit me and ignored the matter."

At that point in his life, he experienced drastic changes including weight loss, excessive sleeping, and dropping out of school. The farthest he reached was the sixth grade.

"I picked up the habit from a senior colleague at school and from other friends who were a bad influence. It started with alcohol, cigarettes and a powder I later discovered was heroin," he said. The person who introduced him to drugs later died of an overdose.

He was a minor when he was first caught by Dubai Police in 2002, thus he was only forced to take routine tests for two years to ensure he was free from narcotics.

During this time he indulged in the world of addiction and selling of drugs while monitoring his intake to ensure the tests stayed negative.

In 2006, he was caught using drugs and was sentenced to four years in prison during which he refused to undergo treatment at the central jail.

"I had just one thought in my head: to get back to drugs and trading in them. I learned the methods of trafficking and concealing drugs from other inmates in the prison," he said.

"You have to realise once you're in this world you will create many ways to get the drug flowing in your system and lifestyle. Dubai Police did a great job in stopping me and getting me back on track. It's society that needs to open up to the problem and its solution. I want to be looked at as a person, not a former drug addict," he said.

"While I was detained before my trial we found ways to smuggle drugs into prison by hiding them in the mobile phones of visitors," he said.

The day he completed his four-year sentence, Y.M. had a dose of heroin. One of his worst experiences was abusing the opportunity by taking Captagon.

After that "I made the decision to not take drugs any more as I grew scared of getting caught, especially since my routine tests became twice a week and in a random manner."

He stopped drug trafficking in 2007 as "I completely lost sense of my life in every possible way. I lost my family's and everyone's respect. I realised that this road has a dead end: jail or death. I am now working on becoming a person," he said.

"For me medical treatment is not a solution as addicts can easily get addicted to it.

"The medical drugs like Tramadol and Artane are among the biggest concerns. They are spreading among youngsters in schools, which leads to other narcotics like heroin and hashish," he said.

Dubai Police continuously contact him to enroll him in activities, lectures, seminars and forums. He was recently involved in the drugs forum that marked International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking where he showed different drugs and methods of usage practiced.

"The officials at Dubai Police and some of my good friends make me feel like a normal person. I still have to work my way in society and battle to gain my family's trust," he said.

Note: The interview was conducted with the assistance of the Anti-Narcotics Department of Dubai Police.

Keeping the emirate safe

Dubai Customs made 190 drug seizures through air, sea and land ports during January to mid-June 2009.
These included numerous kinds of drugs possessed by passengers from abroad in a bid to bring them into the country or reshipped in postal parcels.

According to Mohammad Mattar Al Merri, Executive Director of Cargo Operations at Dubai Customs, the seizures took place at Dubai International Airport, Hamriya Port, Creek Entry, Dubai Cargo Village and Hatta land inspection post.

Legal action against the wrongdoers were taken in cooperation with the Anti-Drug Department at Dubai Police and the other security services in the country.

"Although local and international efforts are being made to combat drug trafficking, there is a continuous conflict at international borders between security and customs authorities on one hand and smugglers on the other," he said.

Dubai Customs depends upon support units including the mobile laboratory that was developed early this year incorporating modern drugs and explosives detection devices, and the Customs Dogs Unit.

The most devious methods used to smuggle drugs into Dubai are in human and animal intestines, between the pages of the Quran, in almonds, and narcotics wrapped around thread balls, to name a few, he said.

According to him, the political instability in some countries, for instance, led to the exploitation of their territories in growing drugs.

"There are international networks that rely on exploiting passively the advanced infrastructure, especially the transport sector, in the emirate of Dubai. The analysis showed that traders exploit the social condition of a great number of people from poor countries in drugs transportation and smuggling operations," he added.

Methods of smuggling drugs into prison detention centres

- Since the beginning of the year there have been four overdose cases in Dubai police stations. Four UAE nationals died of overdoses in different police stations, with one in Bur Dubai, two in Al Ghusais, and one in Rashidiya police stations.

- A detained drug addict smuggled heroin into a police station detention centre by using the method known as "body packing" which involves storing the drugs inside the body, such as swallowing them or, as in this case, placing the heroin in the anal cavity after it is smuggled to the addict by visiting friends in hospital as they get treatment. This could lead to an overdose as the prisoner’s blood narcotics level drops while he or she is detained.

- Other cases involve colleagues or friends of the detained addict intentionally causing an incident to get imprisoned so that they can provide the detained suspect
with heroin. In one case, a man verbally assaulted a policeman to get detained and smuggle drugs for his friends already in detention.

- In a few cases a staff at the detention facilities, such as cleaners or caterers, have smuggled drugs for the addicts. A cleaner sneaked drugs to the detained addict
in exchange for money. The drugs are hidden in clothes, mobile phones, shoes, and wigs.

- Other ways include abuse of drugs already present in the facilities. Detainees some times learn to swallow pills
half way then spit them out, to sell them to other detainees once a large number of pills are collected for a large dose. Addicts on medical treatments are however closely monitored when taking their pills. The duty nurse must make sure the addict takes a certain amount of drugs and that the addict swallows the pill.

Three new devices used in all ent ry points in Dubai and airport:

1) HazMatID:
The HazMatID is a highly specific tool that measures how chemical samples interact with infrared light. Each chemical has its own unique infrared fingerprint, which when analysed by the HazMatID is compared against an onboard library database to provide identification in less than 20 seconds.

Database librar ies include :
- Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) — nerve & blister agents
- Toxic industrial chemicals
- White powders
- Explosives and propellants
- WMD precursors
- Common chemicals
- Forensic drugs and clan lab precursors
- Pesticides

2) GT 200 (remote/long range detector)
The GT200 has been developed to allow the search of large areas and reduce them to small locations that can then be searched with existing technologies such as the canine. The system allows for all types of drugs or explosives to
be searched for in one operation, unlike other equipment that has to make the search a number of times to determine the substance.

It can be used for vehicle check point searches, port control searches, open area searches, air operation searches, naval operation searches, and building searches.

3) 10NSCAN 500DT:
Is capable of detecting and identifying explosives and narcotics during a single analysis, giving the inspector the ability to detect broader range of substances
while maintaining the high sensitivity.

All of them almost provide more than 80 per cent accuracy while processing the results.

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