Dubai centre to fill gap in addiction recovery

The centre in Al Khawaneej, called Ownak, is to be run by the Community Development Authority (CDA) and will fill a gap in treatment for addiction to illegal drugs, said Khaled Al Kamda, CDA director general.

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DUBAI // A new government drug-rehabilitation centre will offer follow-up services to recovering addicts to help prevent relapses.

The centre in Al Khawaneej, called Ownak, is to be run by the Community Development Authority (CDA) and will fill a gap in treatment for addiction to illegal drugs, said Khaled Al Kamda, CDA director general.

Long-term recovery requires medical intervention, social rehabilitation and an aftercare programme such as Ownak that can last months or years, said Dr Hussain Maseeh, a social-care expert for the CDA.

The centre will serve citizens who have completed medical treatment and social rehabilitation, but need outpatient services to avoid relapse.

"There are a lot of newcomers into drug addiction but there is also a large part that fall back," Dr Maseeh said.

Ownak is a stopgap measure while the emirate develops a system that addresses all stages of recovery. The Dubai Executive Council is studying the idea, Mr Al Kamda said.

"We are aware of the need for a comprehensive solution to the problem," he said.

But the CDA did not want to wait, Dr Maseeh said.

"We want to start some services now - at least help those who are trying to stop, and help their families," he said.

The National Rehabilitation Centre serves Emirati addicts in Abu Dhabi, but options in Dubai are limited. A rehabilitation centre run by the police closed several years ago.

Al Amal Psychiatric hospital offers treatment for withdrawal symptoms, and police operate a follow-up programme for addicts who have been released from prison.

Another CDA programme, Dose of Hope, provides rehabilitation services inside Dubai's jails. It has served 77 people since it began last year, including two groups of Emirati men and a group of Emirati and expatriate women.

Also last year, police announced plans to open a rehabilitation centre in 2014 that will serve up to 272 addicts. Ownak is unrelated.

"This is totally independent and we have no connection with any police or security," Dr Maseeh said.

"We focus on the confidentiality. We want the family to feel that they have full confidentiality and no worries about police or anything like that."

The penalty for taking drugs is a four-year jail term, followed by deportation for expatriates. Federal law states that if drug users turn themselves in they will not be jailed. But at least two Emirati addicts who sought help in Abu Dhabi were arrested, they claimed in court.

"If a family has a person within their family who is into addiction or there is a sign, they don't know where to go," Mr Al Kamda said.

"They don't want to go to police because they don't want a case. We are not there to report any person who comes to us voluntarily."

The centre will offer individual, group and family therapy in a "family-friendly and relaxing" setting, Dr Maseeh said.

The aim of including the family is to address financial problems, marital conflict, miscommunication or other issues that could make it difficult for an addict to stay clean.

Recovering addicts who are socially isolated are likely to relapse, Mr Al Kamda said.

"I think the most important thing about a family consultation is that the individual or the family is ready to receive the person, is ready to include them," he said.

Because services are provided on an outpatient basis, the centre's capacity is flexible, Dr Maseeh said.

Ownak will start with six staff members, including two psychologists and a drug specialist.

"We can receive requests for services immediately through our website," he said. "We are going to start building a database, studying the cases, before providing the services."

Ownak can be contacted through the CDA call centre at 800-2121, or online at www.cda.gov.ae.