Devil’s Basil: true stories from the UAE about the perils of drugs

The 150-page booklet has been produced by the Dubai Public Prosecution to highlight the dangers of falling into drug addiction.

Devil’s Basil tells the true stories of several people and families whose lives have been wrecked by drugs. Courtesy Government of Dubai
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DUBAI // A booklet has been produced to warn people that even just trying drugs once can lead to addiction, or even death.

Devil’s Basil is a 150-page publication produced in English and Arabic by Dubai Public Prosecution to highlight the dangers of recreational drugs.

It is part of an initiative to raise awareness about drugs, and the legal and health risks posed by taking them.

Yousuf Al Hammadi, a legal auditor, wrote the content with the help of Ibrahim Abdul Rahman, an assistant legal researcher. Their work was supervised by counsellor Hamad Al Khalafi.

Mr Al Hammadi hoped the booklet’s stark message about the perils of drug addiction would hit home with all its readers.

"Our audience is every member of the community," he said.

“We were tasked to launch awareness campaigns and this booklet is one of them. We worked on it for almost four months.”

As for the booklet's unusual name, he said: "Many drugs come from plants, basil is a plant, both can be smelled, eaten and are appealing to the soul, but the only difference is that one of them is devilish."

So far, 6,000 copies of the booklet have been printed. They will be available in many public buildings, as well as being distributed with some magazines.

The booklet explains that UAE criminal law exempts a drug user from prosecution if they come forward seeking treatment.

It also explains that anyone who reports a drug-related crime to authorities may also be exempt, if the report takes place before an official investigation begins.

Included in the book are a number of case studies, recalling true stories concerning the devastating effect drugs can have on people’s lives.

One of these concerns a mother, identified as Umm Ali, whose husband died in a car crash.

From then on, she struggled to raise her four teenage boys, all of whom fell into drug addiction.

The eldest one tried drugs, became hooked, then his three brothers followed in his footsteps.

The older boy and her second son died after overdosing on drugs. The third son sought rehabilitation treatment, while the fourth ended up in jail.

The second story is about a man in his 50s who had been addicted to drugs since he was 18 years old.

He belonged to a well-respected Emirati family, but fell in with a bad crowd and started taking narcotics.

Eventually, he was jailed, but that was not the end of his addiction. Friends continued to smuggle drugs into prison for him, and sometimes he would share a needle with fellow inmates.

Now released, without a job, friends or a family of his own, he spends his life between a medication clinic and relapses.

The booklet highlights the fact that 230 million people around the world tried narcotics at least once last year. Of that figure, one in 40 of them were regular users.

According to surveys, the most-used drug is cannabis, followed by amphetamine, then cocaine and opium substances.

The surveys also found that 200,000 people die every year from drugs-related causes.

The booklet narrowed addiction down to four stages, starting with the love of experience. Next comes acceptance of drug use, followed by regular abuse and then addiction. In another section, the booklet lists the most common types of drugs and the symptoms that users exhibit.

Devil’s Basil concludes with one success story – that of a young Emirati student who was lured into addiction by his friends.

After a few years of regular use, the death of a friend who overdosed in his bedroom shocked him into quitting the habit.

After serving his jail term, he completed school and college, secured a job with a government institution and got married.

For the sake of his children, he made a vow to never return to his former life.