Saudi drug addiction test "failure", says health official

A drug addiction test initiated by Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry for prospective brides and grooms has been branded a failure by officials.

Mohammed Al Saeedi, the Health Ministry’s director-general for Combating Chronic and Hereditary Diseases, said the test, made mandatory in 2005 following reports of widespread drug use among Saudi youth, did not effectively address addiction, according to a report in English language newspaper Arab News.

More than 2.5m addiction tests have been carried out so far since the initiative was launched.

“Conclusions about the test were reached by scientific committees and government departments,” he said.

Saudis account for over 54 percent of drug users in the kingdom and drug addiction among women has increased by 20 percent during the past few years, according to figures cited in the report. It said 55 percent of drug addicts were aged between 19 and 30.

“This is a cause for major concern. The ministry has found that addicts tend to abstain from taking drugs prior to getting married so they can pass drug tests. Once married, however, they return to their drug addiction,” Al Saeedi claimed.

He said that members of the public have responded favourably to the test, but it failed to address the loophole used by many to pass the test.

Al Saeedi said that the programme is being run in 130 centres, 91 labs and 80 check-up clinics and is manned by 1,120 health care specialists.

“The programme was founded as a preventive mechanism against chronic and hereditary diseases, which bear a heavy financial and emotional cost,” he was quoted as saying.

A study carried out by the Ministry of Interior found there were 204,000 drug addicts in the kingdom. Female addicts accounted for around a fifth of cases.

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