Children as young as 11 are being treated for drug abuse at a specialist centre dedicated to helping women and young people with addiction.
The drug of choice for many is crystal methamphetamine, a powerful and deadly drug that stimulates the central nervous system.
Speaking at a two-day conference on addiction, Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, director general of the National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi, said young people need more education at an earlier age.
“Drug abuse starts from just 11-years-old,” he said.
“Children need to be taught about the dangers of consuming drugs - there is a shortage of leaders dealing with drug addiction.
“A new institution will be launched to train people on how to deal with drug addicts and the science of addiction.”
A total of 650 people have been admitted to the National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi, with 63 referred to hospitals for treatment.
Forty-nine per cent of those who finished their rehabilitation programme at the Abu Dhabi centre started abusing drugs again.
Dr Al Ghaferi said 3,200 patients have been referred to the rehabilitation centre in Abu Dhabi since its 2002 launch.
Eighteen young female addicts are currently receiving rehabilitation treatment at the Erada Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation in Dubai.
It is a sign of increasing numbers of females and children falling into the grip of crippling drug abuse according to Dr Abdul Qader Al Khayat, who is board chairman of the centre.
“The women are aged between 18 and 24, and are currently receiving treatment at the centre,” he said.
“We treat female addicts, mostly Emiratis, in compliance with the latest medical, psychological and social methods within the framework of full privacy and confidentiality.
“The women-only section includes around two dozen beds equipped with all requirements needed by female addicts.”
The recently opened women-only rehab section, where addicted women are offered specially tailored rehabilitation treatment programmes, takes into account the traditions and customs of Emirati society.
Doctors there said many of the younger woman falling into the web of drug addiction are succumbing to peer pressure, a desire to imitate others and a lack of parental control.
At the conference promoting the centre’s work, Dr Al Khayat said the unit has so far helped 335 men and women, aged 18-70 years to quit using drugs since opening in 2017.
Of those, 150 had been admitted for a period of at least two weeks, with some staying for up to two months.
“The rate of recovery has reached 60 per cent,” said Dr Al Khayat, who has called for urgent action to tackle the significant challenge of rising levels of substance abuse among young people.
“The number of women admitted to the centre is considered to be high. The figure indicates that there is a problem among this age group.
“The use of drugs between school students and in colleges need to be handled in a better way.”
Doctors have called for more research into the reasons behind the trend, and to find new solutions, with parents encouraged to work with teachers, health professionals and the police.
Those who receive rehabilitation treatment at Erada Centre join the centre voluntarily.
If the centre is contacted by a relative and the addict refuses treatment, a doctor working at the centre meets the individual to help convince them into therapy.
Both rehabilitation centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi follow up with their patients after being released.
Five people have contacted the Dubai centre for treatment for alcohol addiction. One 17-year-old claimed to have been addicted for several years.
“Recently, consuming tramadol has diminished but the use of crystal and methamphetamine is on the increase due to easy access,” said Younis Al Balooshi, director of awareness, research and public relations at the Erada Centre.
“Drug users use injections to consume methamphetamine and crystal, which is more dangerous.”
“Families of women, who suffered from drug addiction have faced up to the stigma and decided to find help.”
Dr Al Khayat has called to change the misconception about drug users and deal with them as victims and patients, whilst highlighting the need to fight addiction, raise hope among addicts and create a spirit of sympathy.
“The UAE and GCC countries are being targeted by narcotics traffickers,” he said.
“The number of drug busts, seizing tonnes of illegal substances and at least 20,000 pills or more indicates GCC countries are being targeted by international traffickers.
“Drug addiction has a significant impact on the individual’s mental health - drug addiction is an illness, not a crime.”