Seek help, drug addicts in UAE urged

A campaign against drug abuse was launched in Abu Dhabi to mark International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Seen here filling out a form is Abdullah Al Gahtani of Saudi Arabia. To his right is Kaled Al Hashel, also from Saudi Arabia. Lee Hoagland / The National
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ABU DHABI // A drug abuse campaign aims to reach Emirati families and encourage addicts to seek help.

The drive is being organised by the National Rehabilitation Centre - an addiction recovery facility in the capital - to mark International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking yesterday.

The centre set up a stand at Marina Mall this week with children's activities, flowers and surveys for passersby to help find out how much they knew about addiction.

On Monday, the first day of the campaign, staff found members of the public were apprehensive.

"They feel if we are here, people will think we are addicts," said Shaima Al Jabry, media coordinator for the centre.

But as the week went on, more people stopped to fill out the surveys and ask questions. "You can see now locals are starting to approach us," Ms Al Jabry said.

The centre in Khalifa City has room for 140 recovering addicts including men, women and adolescents - all Emirati.

The most common addiction is to prescription pills, followed by alcohol and heroin. One of the main messages of the campaign is confidentiality. People seeking help can call the centre's hotline at 800-2252.

Ms Al Jabry said the centre wanted to clarify that "we are not dealing with police or any other security department".

Another goal of the campaign is to combat misconceptions.

"Most people, they think addicts are criminals and they deserve to die," Ms Al Jabry said. "They don't believe it can be cured. We always say that addiction is a chronic disease ... you have to take care of it."

Ms Al Jabry, who used to work as an addiction specialist at the centre, has seen success and heartbreak. One of the clients she worked with died, but two others are now working and married with children.

The stand will be open today from 4pm to 9pm on the ground floor of the mall. As part of the campaign, the centre will host a professional motorbike race at 7pm, starting from the Corniche Breakwater.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Police yesterday launched a five-day anti-drug campaign in Al Ain, Baniyas and Ghayathi.

Brig Gen Maktoum Al Sharifi, head of the Abu Dhabi Capital Police, called on families to never give up on a child who becomes addicted to drugs and always seek help at specialised centres, according to a statement from the Ministry of Interior.