Drug Abuse in the Gulf

Drug Abuse in the Gulf

  On the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking 2014, Sara Al Lamki looks at the challenges and progress made on drug abuse in the Gulf. Is awareness enough? In the last 4 years there has been a growing storm of media attention on the rising drug problem in the Arab region, and especially the Gulf States. Newspapers, television talk shows, blogs and social media have been consistently discussing and reporting figures, speculation and interviews. However, the lack of data and studies means this coverage only skims the surface; they acknowledge the existence of a drug problem, but cannot address the extent of it, or the ways to tackle it. Indeed, the lack of data makes the extent of the problem difficult to understand, and as a consequence, the mindset that has been adopted in confronting the issue is is not necessarily effective. There seems to be a discourse, both implied and openly stated, that focuses blame on external causes – “importing” the drug problem, “guard[ing] against entry” of western drugs, international drug mafias – thus diluting the crux of the issue. There is no doubt that public awareness is an integral part of tackling the region’s drug addiction, especially for addressing stigma and social discrimination of addicts or users, however without research and evidence-based prevention programmes, there cannot be an understanding of the root causes and solutions. What do we know? Oil wealth and migrant workers may contribute to the ease of access and availability of narcotics in the region, but these are not the only contributors. Rapid population growth, a large youth segment, and population diversity are...