Helpful ideas: Egypt's experience on reducing demand on drugs

Nesmahar Sayed , Thursday 25 Nov 2021

Egypt presents its experience in reducing demand on drugs amid international praise from country representatives and the UN

Drug rehabilitation in Egypt

FDCTA participates in Libya’s first international conference on the impact of drugs and psychotropics on the family and society. Egypt presents its experience in reducing demand on drugs amid international praise from country representatives and the UN at the conference. Technical support to Libya to benefit from FDCTA’s progress to protect youth from drug abuse.

The Fund for Drug Control and Treatment of Addiction (FDCTA), headed by Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine Al-Qabaj, participated online in Libya’s first international conference on the impact of drugs and psychotropics on the family and society, titled “Confronting Drugs is a Collective Responsibility”. FDCTA was invited by the Libyan

government to attend the conference, which was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior in the unity government Khaled Al-Tijani along with representatives from several Arab countries, and the director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Libya.

Egypt’s Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Social Solidarity Amr Osman, who is also the director of FDCTA, delivered the inaugural speech during the opening session.

Osman said he is honoured to be chosen as a member of the conference’s international advisory committee and said the immense scientific work that went into preparing for this conference is rooted in a strong sense of responsibility and unlimited innovation.

Osman warned of the serious threat that drug abuse poses, making it a pivotal issue in any country’s national security. He said it is as important as the scourge of terrorism, noting that the attention each government pays to this issue makes this conference a milestone in reaching a scientific vision to confront drug abuse based on a sober methodoligcal approach built on field studies, information, statistics and surveys. It also draws comprehensive interventions to combat drug abuse.

Organisers scheduled a roundtable discussion of FDCTA’s work to reduce demand on drugs, and how to support the Libyans in this endeavour.

Osman conveyed Qabaj’s greetings, and said that combating drug abuse is a top priority for developmental work in our modern world. The 2020 World Drug Report revealed that drug abuse among the age group of 15 and 64 is at 5.3 per cent of the global population. Also, that drug addiction grew faster in developing countries than in developed

countries. Unfortunately, there are no exact figures for Arab countries.

Nonetheless, there is consensus that there

is drug abuse in the Arab world and rates are rising exponentially.

World reports on drug abuse also clearly show that we must work hard to treat the damage of drug abuse with regards to health, development,

peace and security across the globe. On the world stage, drugs are thecause of at least 190,000 early deaths, most of which could have been avoided, and usually due to taking opiods.

Osman presented FDCTA’s work, including policies, legislation, prevention programmes, early detection campaigns, as well as supporting and providing treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration

services. Also including education on drug abuse in school curricula, treating addiction patients at specialised hospitals that partner with Hotline 16023, based on international standards and provided for free and in strict confidentiality.

So far, there are 28 centres in 17 governorates, compared to 12 and seven, respectively, in 2014. Osman continued that addiction treatment

centres will open in all governorates across Egypt by 2025.

Reintegration of recovered addicts is conducted by providing them with loans to start small businesses as part of the FDCTA’s “New Beginning”

initiative in partnership with Nasser Social Bank. There are also earnest testing campaigns of school bus drivers, which has dramatically reduced their numbers from 12 per cent of drivers in 2017 to 1.2 per cent. Random testing is also executed for government employees, who are provided with free and confidential treatment if they voluntarily ask for treatment.

Drug abuse among government employees dropped from eight per cent at the start of the campaign in March 2019 to 1.6 per cent today. Libya’s Tijani and UNODC’s representative praised the FDCTA’s efforts, as Osman gave an overview of several programmes and activities to combat drugs. These include correcting misleading information about drugs among youth and other categories most susceptible to taking drugs, and advertising campaigns using influencers such as “You Are Stronger Than Drugs” with Mo Salah, the striker on Egypt’s national team who also plays for Liverpool. A more recent campaign began in Ramadan, and increased the call volume to the drug addiction helpline by 400 per cent. There are also awareness campaigns at schools and universities.

Conference participants praised all these efforts and vowed technical support for Libya in emulating the FDCTA’s experience in reducing the demand on drugs, and protecting youth from falling victim to drug addiction.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 25 November, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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