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More rehabilitation centres required

08/16/2009 11:01 PM

Major Dr Juma Al Shamsi, Director of awareness and protection at the anti-narcotics department of Dubai Police talks to Gulf News.

Q. How does Dubai Police deal with drug addicts in detention and in prisons?

A. All prisoners in detention have a medical file, especially drug addicts who are on prescribed medications for their addiction, which is administrated by a medical staff member in the detention facility. The staff have to make sure the detainee has swallowed the pill as some of them accumulate pills for one intake or sell their share to other inmates.

Inmates in the central prison have the option of undergoing medical treatment as well as to enrol in a 12-step programme to help them cope with addiction and integrate back into society once they complete their sentences. This programme is conducted by a former drug addict.

What about addicts admitting themselves to the police or being reported by their family members?

People admitting themselves to the police or are admitted by their families are not detained or imprisoned or even referred to the court. Section 43 of the Federal Law on narcotics stipulates that addicts surrendering to authorities will not be detained or charged for their addiction or referred to the public prosecution.

They are referred by Dubai Police to the only three locations available in UAE. Al Amal Hospital and sometimes Rashid Hospital in Dubai, Abu Dhabi National Rehabilitation Centre, and Sharjah Rehabilitation Centre.

Are the rehabilitation centres able to cope with the number of addicts and are they helping addicts reintegrate into society?

We need more rehabilitation centres in the UAE. The one in Dubai, Al Amal Hospital, is specialised in providing medical and psychological assistance for addicts but not so much into rehabilitation which is a very crucial stage. Society should take part in combating addiction; it should not be just a police or a security matter. The challenge is in helping former addicts find jobs and build a support system during a critical period in their lives, as it is a defining moment once they leave the centre, since relapsing is common among former drug addicts. We still face people relapsing back to addiction with around 95 per cent of drug addicts having Hepatitis C.

What are the common drugs used among drug addicts in Dubai?

Fifty-five per cent of drug addicts use heroin, 30 per cent use hashish, 10 per cent use opium, and 5 per cent use pills.

What is one of the worse drug addiction cases that you came across?

This came to light around four years ago: An Emirati man was imprisoned more than once for causing problems and for using drugs. This was followed by the arrest of a 17-year- old girl, which turned out to be his daughter. The police later arrested two other men for stealing, assaulting and using drugs, which also turned out to be the sons of the man. Further investigation revealed that the mother of the children died of an overdose. What’s more, another two women were arrested who were also the daughters and sisters of the man.

One of the daughters was recently arrested in the hospital for relapsing into addiction; she was found along with her four-month-old daughter.

What is the magnitude of addiction on medical pills?

Some prescription medicines should be listed in the law among the most addictive misused narcotics to curb their abuse. There are two types of drugs — those that are manufactured illegally such as Captagon and those that are manufactured legally for medical purposes and are used to treat psychological and physical illnesses.

Among the medications widely misused in Dubai are Tramadol, Benzhexol (Artane), and Procyclidine (Kemardrin), which have been recommended to be listed for their adverse effect upon addiction, with three deaths reported during 2008-2009 as a result of a Tramadol overdose.

There is an increase in cases of people addicted to these medications. We find them in an unstable condition but their narcotics test results come out negative but when tested for consuming these medications, it is positive. It has also been reported by drug and former drug addicts of the prevalence of these medical pills among students.


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