Still stronger than drugs

Mai Samih , Tuesday 16 Apr 2024

Mai Samih reports on efforts to prevent drug addiction

Still stronger than drugs


There’s a new phase in “You are stronger than drugs” —the campaign to raise awareness of the danger of addiction and substance abuse.

With the slogan “Drugs will drag you to the end... Don’t tie yourself to them... You are stronger than drugs,” a new campaign aims at reaching those on the front lines of combating social misconceptions and denial that there is an addiction problem.  

The latest campaign was launched by Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine Al-Qabbaj.  

According to Al-Qabbaj, who is also board director of the Egyptian Fund for Drug Control and Treatment of Addiction (FDCTA), preparations are underway to launch the National Drug Control Plan (2024-2028) under the auspices of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, a ministry press release said.

The first phase of the campaign contributed to increasing the demand for addiction treatment by 400 per cent while the rate of abuse among employees of the state administrative apparatus decreased to one per cent from eight per cent in 2019.

Al-Qabbaj said that the new phase of the campaign involves awareness programmes about the harms of drugs in areas which were formerly slums and in 750 villages targeted by the Decent Life initiative aimed at improving the living standards of Egyptians. It provides free treatment for patients of addiction in complete confidentiality.

According to Assistant Social Solidarity Minister and FDCTA Director Amr Othman, the campaign, launched in 2015, was supported by a group of celebrities including Egyptian Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. This year, the campaign is taking a different approach to tackle severe developments in addiction worldwide. Many countries are suffering from the effects of synthetic drugs that have killed 121,000 people in the US alone due to overdosing. Until 2021, more than 1,000 of these synthetic substances were detected in more than 120 countries.

The campaign is intentionally depicting alarming scenes, seeking to instill fear of addiction, says Othman. This year, it targets the most vulnerable groups: craftsmen, drivers and both sexes aged 15 to 25, the age group most susceptible to trying drugs, Othman told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Using a 2017 FDCTA research study showing that 72 per cent of young Egyptians get their information from the media, especially Egyptian drama, FDCTA was keen to address various groups that are at risk of becoming drug addicts. And with 60 per cent of addicts living with their parents, said Othman, the campaign aimed to create a state of familial communication about the problem of drug addiction. Ads aims to encourage conversation between parents and their children so that they understand addiction and the dangers associated with it.

Drug protection programmes were also implemented in new residential areas. Eight community clinics were established within these areas, in addition to implementing awareness-raising activities. They also operated what are called volunteer homes at universities. The idea of volunteer homes, Othman said, is an important part of direct communication methods. “All our preventive activities depend on them in terms of attracting and training volunteers,” he said, adding that they have six volunteer homes in Egyptian universities and thousands of youths visiting them for advice or to volunteer.

Soon, Othman said, they will be scaling up these volunteer homes because trained students were ready to work in schools and youth centres. They depend on volunteers to implement the largest preventive programme to raise the awareness of students of the dangers of drug abuse and addiction in 9,000 schools, he said.

Among the campaign’s plans, Othman said there will be programmes to integrate former addicts into society and help them start their own projects. “The economic empowerment for those treated for addiction decreases the probability of a relapse and elevates the quality of their lives,” he said.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 18 April, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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