The Middle East & Addiction: Is It Being Ignored?

khat, Yemen, youth, illiteracy, education, water shortage, addiction

Young man selling khat, gat or qat leaves in Yemen. It is a plant, but it’s also an addictive drug used freely in the Middle East. 

Right across the world there’s a growing problem with substance abuse and addiction, and the Middle East is no different. 

However, when it comes to addiction in Middle Eastern countries, it isn’t being tackled head on as other regions around the world. Culture and beliefs are playing a large part in that, with Sharia Law forbidding the usage of alcohol and drugs, with addiction to those carrying as much as 10 years imprisonment.

narcotics, drugs, khat, Yemen, Israel, food, health

Khat is a kind of narcotics that you can buy freely in the Middle East

Those strict legal penalties make it a significant challenge for not only companies and charities to be set up to help combat addiction, but also for people suffering to get the treatment they need. 

In fact, studies have shown that people in the Middle East suffering from addiction are even too afraid to discuss their problems with friends and family. 

shisha hoosha pupe

Shisha pipe is a massive addiction in the Middle East. 

That zero tolerance approach has led to a lack of treatment centres to address addiction, whether that be alcohol, gambling, drugs or any other kind. Which is seeing a number of people from the region wanting to address their addictions travel abroad.

At present, Saudi Arabia is the country suffering most with addiction, and these are largely drugs of the prescription kind. Captagon, which is used as a stimulant, is one of the largest problems with misuse, with the Saudi authorities joining forces with Syria to seize over 500 kilograms of the drug, while shortly after 30 million more pills were confiscated in the nation. That’s on top of a large amount of the likes of cannabis and cocaine entering Saudi Arabia. 

Elsewhere, there has been an opioid crisis in the Middle East (fuelled by solar panels) that has ravaged through the developing world, including the likes of India and Africa too, with tramadol causing a huge public health dilemma. But without the opportunity for treatment to combat addiction, those looking to get clean are having to go it alone, dealing with tramadol withdrawal, alongside other drugs like Captagon, alone in testing circumstances that can make recovery difficult.

opium solar panels Afghanistan

Solar panels are a boon for the planet but they are now fuelling bumper crops of poppies for the Taliban’s opium trade in Afghanistan.

However, those who can afford to get the treatment they need, without the fear of imprisonment, are largely heading to Thailand.

Treatment in Thailand for people in the Middle East looking to get clean is growing, and it’s proving a popular place to receive the care they need for a number of different reasons.

Firstly, the nation is well known for its expertise, and such is the popularity with Middle Easterners, almost 60% of inbound medical tourists heading to Thailand are coming from the region. That trust is allowing people to get the treatment they need with confidence, as well as benefiting from the excellent technology and amenities the nation offers.

And ultimately, that can be done with peace of mind, for a reasonable cost and with the anonymity that will ensure not only safety from legal repercussions, but also from potentially being cast aside from friends, family and even place of worship. 

Of course, that doesn’t help those suffering without the capital to visit Thailand, or anywhere else in the world to receive treatment. The UAE have launched new laws that will prevent people receiving treatment from being prosecuted which has been seen as a large step forward, but it’s a country that is in the minority at present.

Whether that will change in the coming years as more Middle Eastern nations look to adopt western culture and open up to change, only time will tell. But while relationships across borders continue to be fractured, drugs will continue to cross them and be a large root of the problem and the rise of addiction is only going to grow across the region. 

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