Number of deaths from drug use on rise in UAE, FNC hears

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said that last year, 6.1 out of every million people died from abusing drugs. That was up from 4.5 out of every million in 2013.

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ABU DHABI // The number of deaths from drug abuse is on the rise, the Federal National Council has been told.

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said that last year, 6.1 out of every million people died from abusing drugs.

That was up from 4.5 out of every million in 2013.

The figures were low compared to countries such as Italy, at 8.7 per million, and Scotland, 149.1 per million, Sheikh Saif said.

Turkey, Switzerland, Australia, England, Iran and Russia also had higher rates than the UAE, according to a slideshow presentation he gave at the session.

FNC members had expressed concern about a lack of rehabilitation centre beds and specialists, and weak educational programmes in schools.

Sheikh Saif said 379 students were found using drugs in 2013, among them 160 Emiratis.

That figure increased from 358 in 2012 and 274 in 2011, and most of them in all three years were Emiratis.

The UAE stopped the attempted smuggling of 152 million narcotic pills and 1,187 kilograms of drugs last year, along with more than 250 narcotic substances.

Dubai member Afra Al Basti asked Sheikh Saif to take the initiative to provide more rehabilitation centres, as the trend was growing, even among women.

“We opened centres to treat women more than one year and a half ago, and programmes to cure female patients when they check in are completely confidential,” said Dr Ali Al Marzouqi, director of public affairs and research at the National Rehabilitation Centre, who accompanied Sheikh Saif.

A new rehab centre is expected to open by the end of the year, said Dr Al Marzouqi. “We also have a new facility with 169 beds that cost the government Dh180 million, in Shakhbout City in Abu Dhabi. We try as much as we can to accommodate this problem,” he said.

Mrs Al Basti was not satisfied.

“I thank you for the 169 beds, but I still want our comments to be taken into consideration that more centres should exist,” she said.

Dr Al Marzouqi said there was a plan to add more centres, and that Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Ruler of Ajman, wanted to open a 110-bed treatment centre.

Treatment and rehab for drug addicts costs the country 2 per cent of its budget at about Dh5.5 billion per year. The treatment of one patient over a three-month period at the National Rehabilitation Centre costs Dh400,000, while outpatients costs Dh4,000 per visit.

At Tuesday’s session, Sheikh Saif also responded to a question raised by Dubai member Hamad Al Rahoomi about an increase in knife attacks among young people.

Sheikh Saif said that there were 1,250 attacks or murders using “cold” weapons – knives, daggers or swords – last year, comprising 0.73 per cent of all crimes.

That was a decrease from 2014, when the number reached 1,375, or 0.9 per cent of crimes, and 1,259 in 2013, or 0.78 per cent.

Sheikh Saif described the figures as quite low, saying the rates did not even reach 1 per cent of all crimes. “We have been monitoring the youth that carry such weapons and focusing on hot spots,” he said.

He played a video arranged by the Ministry of Interior about the dangers of these weapons, which showed a boys’ football game developing into a fight where one boy got stabbed.

“This was a student production,” Sheikh Saif said. “We only gave them the idea, and they promoted it between their friends, and it is available on YouTube.”

Mr Al Rahoomi said he was happy to hear about the low number of these crimes, but said the problem remained important because it mostly existed among Emiratis “outside your house, not in a labour camp”, adding that it fuelled the “start of gangs”.

The council has been waiting since 2011 for the Ministry of Interior to release a draft law regulating the sale and possession of such weapons, Mr Al Rahoomi said, adding that there were legislative gaps that need to be filled.

Sheikh Saif said the draft law would be presented to the FNC soon.