A presidential decree issued last week stipulates that the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s Fund for Drug Control and Treatment of Addiction (FDCTA), will start to screen government employees for drug addiction.
If a government employee is found positive, he or she will be sent to the Administrative Court and legal procedures will be taken which could result in the employee being fired.
According to the FDCTA, the percentage of drug abuse in Egypt is 10.4 per cent, twice the global rate. Around 27 per cent are females.
The Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali has called for more drug campaigns and that the FDCTA coordinate with all government bodies to scan for drug use in the administrative body of the state so that the presidential decree is effectively carried out.
Deputy Minister of Social Solidarity and head of the FDCTA Amr Osman said that the most frequently used drug was cannabis, at 74 per cent. Osman said that as the campaign began the number of employees from government and non-government institutions alike using the hotline for help increased. Around 3,000 government employees have used the hotline so far. He added that anyone seeking to be cured from addiction will be treated as a patient and in complete privacy.
“The law states that anyone who steps forward voluntarily to be cured of drug addiction will not be legally punished,” FDCTA legal advisor Hassan Harak said. “When an employee takes a drug test, the analysis is done in his presence since this removes any fear or doubts he may have, like mistakes in the analysis or suspicions that his sample was swapped for someone else, for example,” Harak said.
If that person is found to be positive, and if they feel they were treated unjustly, they are referred to a medical examiner from the Ministry of Health with the same sample. So, if the employee objects, there is a third party that is neutral, Harak said. If he still has doubts, then we send the same sample to the Ministry of Health for confirmation, he said, adding that if a person takes a certain medicine with a percentage of narcotics in it, like Tramadol, he will be examined to see whether the illness he can be cured using this kind of medicine.
“In the end, it is an employee’s career on the line so he has to be sure he was not treated unjustly,” Harak acknowledged. If somebody has a severe back problem, for example, and has a doctor’s prescription, he must undergo a medical examination since it is impossible to contact all the doctors who wrote the prescriptions.
For a patient to be given a narcotic medicine for medical use, Harak explained, several written consents are needed from government pharmacies that have a record of the patient’s medical information. These are accepted by the FDCTA medical team that conducts the test.
FDCTA treated over 116,000 people in 2018. Eight per cent of addicts who used the hotline were between the ages of 15 and 20.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 March, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Drug-free government