Dubai's security chief said the UAE is at war with drug traffickers – after a huge increase in the amount of narcotics seized in the country.
There were 61,525 kilograms of narcotics seized in the UAE last year compared with 9,640kg in 2016, an increase of 538.2 per cent.
Anti-narcotics officers arrested 6,440 people in relation to drug smuggling and drug use last year, up from 5,130 in the previous year, the Ministry of Interior said.
Parents are being asked to play a key role in keeping their children away from drugs, as the Erada Rehab and Treatment Centre in Dubai reported that a child of 10 was being treated for drug addiction at one of its facilities.
There were 4,454 drug-related cases reported last year, compared with 3,774 in 2016.
"We are in a war with drug traffickers. When smuggling techniques are detected by the anti-narcotics unit, traffickers create new ones. Police must focus on busting drug lords rather than addicts," said Lt Gen Dhahi Tamim, Deputy Chairman of Police and General Security in Dubai.
Lt Gen Tamim, speaking at Dubai Police Stadium on Tuesday, called for parents to be vigilant to ensure their children are not lured into drug use.
Lt Gen Tamim said: “Youths hang out with friends or travel abroad, where they fall victim to drug traffickers. They are being involved in delinquency as early as 11 or 12. Parents should keep an eye on their children until they turn 18.”
Lt Gen Tamim highlighted the important role parents play in preventing drug addiction among teens during the launch of an awareness campaign “Listen First – Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe”, which coincided with the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Lt Gen Tamim urged community members and authorities to work together in the fight against drugs.
Video footage shown in the conference hall highlighted the country’s efforts to bring drug smugglers to justice and raise public awareness about the consequences of substance abuse.
A play was performed by two young men, showing a father engaged in earning money and neglecting his son, which led the teenage boy to become an addict. In another scenario, a father was drunk while his son asked him to assist his sick mother. The scenarios presented at the play showed how a teen could become an addict due to parental negligence.
Mr Hatem Fouad Aly, a representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said the causes of the steep rise in drugs and the creation of new types of illegal substances vary globally, due to the current political situation in some countries and the financial crisis across the world.
“The financial crisis across the world provoked some to get involved in illicit trade and conflicts in many countries have led to security related changes, that have been exploited,” said Mr Aly.
Mr Aly said that countries have addressed these facts and cooperate to combat illegal trades, including drug trade or trafficking.
“The hazardous types of narcotics substances are being promoted by traffickers in forms of tea bags and herbs to make people believe they are not dangerous,” he added.
Mr Aly gave an example of synthetic drugs, created using man-made chemicals rather than natural ingredients.
Dr Abdul Qader Al Khayat, the chairman of the Erada rehabilitation centre,
said: “There are new types of drugs and consumers of drugs are starting at a younger age. We are currently treating a 10-year-old addict at the centre. There is a need to change the strategies used to combat the drugs and opioid epidemic. Education and monitoring the youth is the key.”
Dr Al Khayat suggested introducing courses at schools highlighting the dangers of drug abuse.
"Families are being involved during the rehabilitation process at the centre. There are family gatherings with patients and meeting with doctors to instruct the family on how to deal with their addict children," he said.
Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, director of the National Rehabilitation Centre, said the drug choice of many is crystal methamphetamine, a powerful and deadly drug that stimulates the nervous system.
Dr Al Ghaferi Some addicts start at a young and others start after turning 25 or 26 years.
“A new course is being designed to address drug related topics in schools. The course is being tested to be included in school curriculum,” said Dr Al Ghaferi.
“Families involvement in their children’s lives is vital,” he said.
A new award has been introduced by the Ministry of Interior to recognise those who make outstanding contributions to combating narcotics.
Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, has ordered the creation of an award to recognise outstanding contributions in the fight against drugs.