The majority of Arab youth believe illegal drug is on the rise and authorities must introduce stricter laws to curb their usage as they are too easy to obtain, according to the results of the latest ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey.
The results of the annual survey, which has been running since 2008, were released on Tuesday. It includes 3,300 face-to-face interviews with Arab youth aged 18 to 24 years. Interviews were carried out between January 6 and 29 in 15 Arab states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Yemen.
The results found that 57 percent believe drugs are easy to obtain in their home country, with the data ranging from 70 percent in the Levant countries to 32 percent in the GCC.
Peer pressure was the main reason giving for this rise by 62 percent of respondents, followed by stress relief (45 percent), boredom (43 percent) and lack of entertainment options (41 percent).
In response to the easy access to drugs and rising usage, respondents took a hard-line on how authorities should respond with 63 percent of Arab youth calling for stricter laws related to illegal drugs. Over half (58 percent) also called for more efficient law enforcement, 54 percent demanded better education and awareness of the negative effects of drugs and 50 percent said governments should offer better rehabilitation and counselling services.
Osama Al-Sharif, a veteran journalist and political commentator from Amman, said “stricter laws are not enough to overcome this challenge – there is an urgent need to look at this problem from a social, economic and even political angle”.
“While most countries have strict laws targeting both criminals who engage in illegal distribution and, to a lesser extent, those who abuse drugs, the fact remains that there are few studies which show conclusively how to deal with the issue.
“Moreover, this is a global challenge and no country can deal with the challenge of drug abuse on its own. Each country and sub-region represents a special case, and the factors contributing to the rise in drug use in Jordan, for example, differ from those faced by the UAE,” Al-Sharif said in an opinion piece accompanying the results.
A report carried out in 2017 by the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in Abu Dhabi, with the help of the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, found that drug addiction cost the UAE economy around AED5.5 billion ($1.49 billion) a year, according to a report by Gulf News.
The NRC was established in May 2002 and is the UAE’s leading centre in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of drug and alcohol addiction.
“Added to this is the high medication costs to treat the addicted person; together, it adds up to a lot of money,” Dr Ali Hassan Al Marzouqi, Director of General Health and Studies at NRC, was quoted as saying by Gulf News in 2017.
Authorities are doing their best to crack down on drug usage and last month almost six tonnes of illegal substances, heroin cocaine, opium and hashish, seized by Dubai Police, were destroyed by authorities.
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