Mutual support can help addicts

The fight against drugs involves encouraging addicts to rehabilitate

It is no secret that illicit drugs ruin lives. They harm the individuals who use them, their families and friends, and the wider community. The devastating effects of serious drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methadone, LSD and ecstasy, are especially well documented – and that is why their import, sale and use is forbidden, or restricted for medical purposes, in jurisdictions around the world. But it is also true that these drugs, and others, are highly addictive and that the people who fall into their grip can find it almost impossible to escape. That is why we need to support initiatives that help addicts give up their habits and remain drug-free.

As The National reported yesterday, Narcotics Anonymous is filling an important role. According to its spokesman, Mohammed, it caters to 110 addicts who attend meetings conducted weekly across the Emirates in several languages, including Arabic, English, Russian and Nepalese. Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, participants must admit their addiction and their willingness to undertake a step-by-step process that involves behavioural change, a desire to atone for past mistakes and help others.

It is important that those who attend these meetings can do so knowing that they are welcome regardless of their religion, creed or gender, and without the fear that they are under official surveillance. Supporting such a programme does not mean decriminalising drugs or requiring law enforcement officers to go soft on offenders. Those who traffic in drugs, and those who continue to use illegal drugs, must face the full force of the law. The NA programme and others like it, run by mosques, churches, hospitals and community groups, are about giving hope and a way out of a deadly cycle to people who have a genuine desire to rehabilitate.

The fight against drugs is multi-pronged. Customs officials, police and the justice system have important roles to play, but we can only create a drug-free environment by eliminating the demand. And that means making sure that people with drug addictions are supported in their efforts to stay clean.