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02 December 2023

Drug crisis: 10-year-olds on heroin

'The National' NRC plans to bring drug education to schools for the first time in a bid to halt the rise of drug abuse by youth. (GETTY IMAGES)

By Staff

The low age at which children eperiment with drugs is troubling, said experts on the sidelines of a regional conference on drug use organised by the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC).

According to a report in 'The National' NRC plans to bring drug education to schools for the first time in a bid to halt the rise of drug abuse by youth. But some education officials are apprehensive about bringing up the topic with school children.

Anti-drug officials across the UAE say they have noticed the age at which young people using drugs has decreased from 17 or 18 to as young as 12. One official said children as young as 10 are into drugs.

"As part of our prevention programme policy we will hold sessions for students aged 12 to 14," said Dr Hesham Elarabi, head of health, education research and studies, NRC. The 12-week course will involve parents and teachers. It will explain causes and types of addiction, consequences, prevention methods, treatment and rehabilitation methods, he said.

However, no agreement has been reached with any school yet, because some officials did not want to bring up the issue in front of students, he added.

In fact, some parents say such efforts are long overdue. The Emirati mother Hind al Muhairi said little is being done in schools to  address the issue of addiction. "I do my bit at home to ensure they do not get swayed by what they watch on TV, but schools have to be responsible too," she said. 

Teenagers often do not think about the consequences of their decisions, making it necessary to target that age group, said Wayne MacInnis, the principal of the Raha International School in Abu Dhabi. "With such programmes, you can equip them to make better choices," he added. 

He said many of the drugs taken are medical pills that are legally purchased but addictive such as Tramadol, Lyrica and Neurontin. As far as "harder" drugs are concerned, "the common trend in the region is for people to get addicted to sedative drugs like hashish, rather than cocaine for instance", he said.

Dr Juma Khudonazapou, a global health representative, said more opium is being brought into the UAE with the increase of Afghani immigrants. Moreover, the Gulf is a crossover from Afghanistan, which is the main global producer of opium, to Europe.