ABU DHABI // Heroin has resurfaced as the drug of choice for users in the UAE.
Dr Ali Hassan Al Marzooqi, public health director and research director at the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), said alcohol and drug trends come and go in the Emirates.
Those are often dictated by supply and demand, he said, meaning if a police crackdown led to a substantial amount of one drug being confiscated, users would turn to others.
Dr Marzooqi said heroin was the drug of choice in the UAE.
Previously, the opioid painkiller Tramadol and prescription drugs have been favourites.
Speaking at the Commonly Co-occuring Disorders conference yesterday, he said that preference trends changed year by year or even quarter by quarter.
“It depended on factors within the community. Sometimes we see an influx of heroin patients and sometimes we are dealing with prescribed drugs,” he said.
“It depends what is available, at what price and how easily addicts can get their hands on what is in the market.”
The anti-narcotics department also played a big role, Dr Marzooqi said.
“When they seize a lot of huge shipments such as Tramadol then we usually predict that there will be an increase of heroin or other injectable substances.
“Right now, we have noticed that there is a lot of heroin cases. Usually, unfortunately, this is associated with a prevalence in HIV and Hepatitis C.”
Dr Marzooqi described the current situation as a cause for concern at the NRC. About 80 per cent of patients being treated for injectable drug use at the centre have Hepatitis C, the conference heard.
He said NRC workers continued to try to shake off the stigmas associated with drug addiction and alcohol dependence.
“Drug addicts are stigmatised wherever they go,” he said. “But here, within the NRC, over the last 13 or 14 years we have managed to assure patients that their confidentiality is going to be kept secret.
“We encourage people to seek treatment.
“Usually addiction is not something that they can recover easily without help of specialised people.”