Addiction To Gaming As Harmful As Drugs, Says Expert
Sat, Oct 28, 2017
Abu Dhabi: Addiction to digital gaming is as harmful as drugs and it impacts physical and mental health of youngsters, experts at an addiction medicine conference said on Saturday.
Youngsters in the UAE spend up to 10 hours on their digital gadgets playing games and surfing the internet for new games.
However, experts said parents and teachers can play a key role in protecting these students from adverse effects of gaming and excessive internet usage.
Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Ahmad Al Kashef, head of research at the National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi, said: “As per published studies, about 10-12 per cent students of the UAE spend up to 10 hours on gaming each day. It’s a new menace to society.” Youngsters are spending up to $6,000 on buying games each year in the UAE, he said, adding that when they get bored with a game, they buy another one online.
“They get less sleep, become irritable, feel tired, find hard to get up in the morning for school and miss classes. Even when they reach school, they doze off in the classroom and can’t pay attention,” he said.
Drug use and gaming cause symptoms of dependency [want to do all time], tolerance [keep increasing the dose/hours] and if you stop it you feel restless until you turn to it.
These behavioural changes make them rude to the family and become aggressive as well. If you snatch the game from them, they would feel very nervous and anxious, like you took away a drug from them. It’s all very much like drug addictions,” Dr Al Kashef told Gulf News on the sidelines of the 19th annual conference of the International Society of Addiction Medicine, which kicked off in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
More than 500 experts in addiction medicine, including psychiatrists, researchers and nurses from 40 countries, are attending the four-day conference, which focuses on developments in the treatment, diagnosis and prevention of substance abuse.
Gaming also includes online gambling, which is very common among mid-level, high school and college students as well as adults.
Parents’ key role
Parents and schools can play an important role in educating and guiding children on time management for sleep, studies, playing and digital gaming and dangers of gaming for long hours.
Parents should drive their children towards studies by awarding them a time for games — like "if you study and finish your work, you will get half an hour to play games", and educate them about harmful effects of gaming, he said.
Parents should keep a tab on their kids, who they mingle with and play.
Sometimes, they get in touch with some professionals who attract them towards gaming, Dr Al Kashef said. Game manufacturers build addictive qualities to the games to get youngsters hooked on.
The NRC, which is organising the conference, is the first rehab centre in the UAE, and currently operates from a custom-built facility in Shakhbout City with 169 patient beds.
Since 2002, it has provided treatment to 3,100 Emirati patients, including 60 women.
Stigma Can Cause Addiction-related Health Issues To Go Unnoticed In UAE, Say Experts
Fri, Jul 13, 2018
Health issues related to addiction remain a blind-spot in some communities due to continuing stigmas surrounding drugs and alcohol, experts have said. Speaking at the Public Health Forum of the Arab Health Congress in Dubai, doctors working in the field of addiction said that while some patients struggle to access help, knowledge and acceptance of addiction as a genuine health concern has vastly improved in the last 15 years.
“For so many reasons this subject is taboo in the community,” said Dr Ali Al Marzooqi, director of public health and research development at the National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi. “Because of our culture and religious values, many think this problem of addiction does not exist.
“It exists in every single country and the burden here in our region is probably the same as in the US. “If President Trump claims it is an epidemic and an emergency issue, it is the same in the Middle East.” Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry system.
MoU Between The National Rehabilitation Centre And The U.S. Department Of State’s Bureau Of International Narcotics And Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)
Mon, Apr 23, 2018
The National Rehabilitation Centre, represented by Director General His Excellency Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). For the United States, the MoU was signed by Mr. Steven Bondy, Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in the UAE.
During the signing ceremony, Al Ghaferi stated that this MOU supports leadership directives to enhance cooperation with international parties to identify approaches and unify efforts to decrease the economic and social burden of drug addiction. This also falls under the umbrella of implementing the NRC’s objectives, strategies, and vision to enhance cooperation and partnerships in all spheres to serve society and immunize it against the blight of substance abuse.
HE Dr Al Ghaferi added that this MoU supports the NRC’s plans to develop into a regional coordination centre, collaborating with the U.S. Department of State’s INL Bureau to reduce substance demand. This collaboration is considered a recognition of the centre’s role in combating drug addiction, as well as its sustainable endeavors to protect youth and all segments of society from substance dependency. In addition to its awareness campaigns and educational and cultural programmes, the NRC has established a specialized training centre with the International Centre for Credentialing and Education of Addiction Professionals’ Global Treatment Programme, developed by the Colombo Plan and US Department of State’s INL Bureau.
The MoU emphasizes both parties’ desire to enhance mechanisms for disseminating the INL Bureau’s drug prevention, treatment, and recovery programmes. This objective shall be attained through collaboration with other international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the African Union (AU), the Organization of American States (OAS), International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) and the Colombo Plan. The NRC shall focus its attention on the Arab world’s concerns, establishing training programmes and overseeing their delivery to support the prevention, awareness, and treatment of substance abuse. The MoU establishes a mutual understanding of governance-related risks, institutions, security, and capacity-building of drug treatment and prevention professionals, including the creation of a network of prevention and treatment experts through the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP).
UAE To Build Region's Largest Institute To Train Anti-addiction Professionals
Tue, Sep 11, 2018
The UAE is planning to build the largest institution in the region for training psychiatrists and mental health and anti-addiction professionals.
Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, director-general of the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), said on Tuesday that all the necessary arrangements for setting up the training institution have been completed and construction of the education project would soon begin in Abu Dhabi.
The collaborative institute will offer training courses for professionals including psychiatrists, primary care physicians, social workers and nurses and other mental health practitioners.
The anti-addiction training institute, which will attract people from across the region, will be accrediting students for the International Society of Addiction Medicines (ISAM) certificate.
"Our major aim is to build an education institute within the NRC so that we produce professionals who can support addicts and people with mental problems and also transfer the knowledge to others," Al Ghaferi told Khaleej Times on the sideline of the workshop on "Consultation to Finalise the Regional Framework for Strengthening the Public Response to Substance Use Problem".
"An adequate response to the growing problem of substance misuse requires a skilled and competent workforce in the areas of prevention, treatment, teaching and research." He noted that the UAE through the NRC is taking on workforce capacity building as one of its priorities.
"Driven by its own needs, the UAE is undertaking an education and training agenda to serve the UAE and the region by developing this training institute, which will be the largest in the region," said Al Ghaferi.
"The education institute will be on international standard and is intended to serve our mandates of providing continued education programmes for psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurses and towards building up new specialties in the field of mental health workers."
The official said the NRC also have many people working with them in taking care of addicts and people with mental problems, but they are not certified professionals or experts. He said all these people will have the chance of getting training at the institution so they can get internationally accredited certificates. Commenting on the rise of substance use among young people worldwide, Alex Baldacchino, professor of medicine, psychiatry and addictions at University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said actions and interventions in the fight against substance abuse haven't been so effective because of a lack of clarity on what people should be doing in teaching and supporting individuals with addiction problems.
"We all know that substance use in predominantly among the young population. But what we don't have on a regional or global perspective is the right evidence and instructions to measure whether what we are doing is making any difference, and this is a stumbling block," said Baldacchino.
He noted that research show that tramadol is the common drug used by people in the UAE while the young generation use a cocktail of drugs.
And on the reasons why some addicts get back to drugs after being treated at rehabs, Baldacchino sited things like returning back to the environment that doesn't allow them to quit drugs, the lack of knowledge to cope up with new and normal life after leaving the rehab and the stress factor.
Dr Gilberto Gerra, chief of prevention and health branch division for operations at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said: "Drug addiction among young people is a big problem all over the world.
"More is needed to educate young people about the negative effects of drugs, including the fact that it kills and destroys people's lives. People need to be taught about the different drugs and their effects so they avoid drug abuse."
UAE To Train Specialist Drug Counsellors To Treat Rising Number Of Abuse Cases
Tue, Sep 11, 2018
The UAE is to build the region’s first centre for training health professionals to treat drug addiction. The National Rehabilitation Centre Training Institute will provide internationally recognised programmes for psychiatrists, social workers and other carers in treating long-term substance abuse.
“The institute has been approved by the government and we are building up the capabilities,” said Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, director general of the centre. The announcement was made on the first day of an international conference in Abu Dhabi aimed at improving regional collaboration in the fight against drug abuse. The three-day event, organised by the World Health Organisation and the centre, will establish a public health framework to ensure a more co-ordinated response.
Dr Al Ghaferi said the new institute would take a lead in providing the best available training for those working in rehabilitation. He said the courses would be accredited by the UAE and international bodies including the WHO, the International Society of Addiction Medicine and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. “We are looking at methods of training, the manpower required, and possible collaborations with training facilities and institutes inside and outside of the country,” said Dr Ali Al Marzooqi, research director at the centre. “We’ll only need a few employees to run the administrative side of the institute. We won’t need to increase our budget.”
A group of Abu Dhabi schools are running a new pilot programme which sees pupils taught how to manage mental health pressures they may experience. Emirates National Schools has linked with the World Health Organisation to put mental health workshops into the curriculum.
The intention is to get young people to talk more about the pressures placed on them, to recognise it in others and to prepare them for the future. Pupils will be taught how to manage their emotions and will also undergo mindfulness sessions, a psychological process used to help clear the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. Research shows about one in five children and adolescents have a mental health problem or disorder, while half of all mental problems begin before the age of 14 The project is being run in cooperation with the WHO and the UAE's National Rehabilitation Centre.
If successful, the intention is to roll it out across the country and even the region. Dr Hesham Hamoda, a consultant of child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, told The National that there is a need to better prepare young people for the future. “The opportunity we have here is to affect the lives of many people," he said. "School mental health is a very important topic. We know that one fifth of children suffer from a mental health problem. We also know that half of mental health problems starts in adolescence and childhood so we have an opportunity not only to tackle an issue that is a public health crisis, but also an issue that is important to the development of nations.”
The programme itself and how it could be integrated into curriculums or taught separately will be discussed with the education authorities in Abu Dhabi this week.
It is expected the programme will be delivered primarily in Arabic with a separate course for English-language classes. Emirates National Schools is a private operator of three second schools that are attended mostly my Emirati boys and girls.
“When we talk about mental health it isn’t just because it is an important topic but because it touches on so many different areas," Dr Hamoda said.
"The UAE is making important efforts in terms of improving its educational capacity and I think attention to mental health would allow schools to take the next step.
"This programme fits into the core responsibilities of a school because we know that students who better emotional and mental health, actually do better and reduces juvenile crime rates, school drop outs so this is very important in terms of public policy."
In 2013, the NRC introduced a programme that teaches schoolchildren about the hazards of smoking and taking drugs. The initiative, called Unplugged, was also implemented at Emirates National Schools.
It is hoped that the new project will build on that and run next year.
“We used the experiences and challenges we had with Unplugged and developed this new programme,” said Ayesha Al Hosani, a healthcare educator at the NRC.
“The programme is both life skills and mental health,” she said.
“This year we are assessing the situation and getting all of those holders involved.
“It is also not only about school children but parents involved as well,” Ms Al Hosani said.
Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, director of the rehabilitation centre, said the school and authorities are ready to embrace what is a "unique" project in schools.
"If we succeed in our objectives, this will be the first programme in the Middle East and the region. We want to introduce the concept of 'healthy schools' - there are healthy cities but not healthy schools," he said.
UAE Mental Health Project Will Help Young People Cope With Bullying
Tue, Oct 23, 2018
Parents and academics have welcomed a new pilot project designed to teach pupils how to manage mental health pressures.
Around 70 parents gathered at Emirates National Schools in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday to discuss the curriculum which is set to be introduced next year.
Emirates National Schools has partnered with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UAE’s National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) to develop the programme.
The intention is to encourage young people to talk more about the everyday pressures they face, to recognise it in others and to help prepare them for the future.
“It’s important that our children experience schemes like this,” said 49-year-old parent, Hani Al Yazzori.
“They need to know how to react to things like bullying. Perhaps teachers will also become more aware of kids who bully others in school.”
The initiative - called the mental health and life skills programme - will be delivered primarily in Arabic with a separate course for English-language classes.
Emirates National Schools is a private operator of three secondary schools that are attended mostly my Emirati boys and girls.
Research shows around one in five children and adolescents suffer from a mental health disorder. Half of all mental health difficulties begin before the age of 14.
Dr Hesham Hamoda, a consultant of child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, said there was an obvious need to better prepare young people for the future.
He said the curriculum would also help equip teachers with the tools they needed to diagnose a potential problem in their pupils.
“A lot of it is about prevention and promotion - how to create a school culture that promotes self-expression, dialogue and helps deal with problems in a non-violent way,” he said.
In the case of bullying, Dr Hamoda said the programme would teach bystanders who might witness bullying how to intervene.
“It’s also about empowering the life skills of bystanders,” he said.
International Anti-addiction Training Organisation To Open In UAE
Sun, Nov 10, 2019
An international non-profit organisation that provides addiction therapy training will open in the UAE, officials announced on Sunday.
The International Society of Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Professionals was launched in 2015 and operates in 14 countries.
It trains specialised health workers, teachers, volunteers and recovered addicts who are able to relate to people trying to overcome addiction.
“In Egypt, for instance, recovered addicts put on better rehabilitation programmes than doctors,” said Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, director general of the National Rehabilitation Centre, which will oversee the branch.
ISSUP also helps build prevention programmes that involve creating a support network among all facets of society.
Dr Al Ghaferi said the NRC will work with all concerned parties, including education ministries, the police and social societies, to implement those programmes.
“The key thing with prevention is to build a system that involves the family, society, the school, teachers,” said Joanna Travis-Roberts, executive director of ISSUP.
“So we build a network around the young person to protect their life cycle, by giving young people that confidence they need to face peer pressure, and go through questions they need answered; there isn’t just one perfect way of building that community.”
The NRC is taking positive steps towards reaching that goal, said Melody Heaps, chairwoman of ISSUP’s board of trustees.
“I know that Dr Hamad has an understanding of what it means to build a community supporting prevention, I am secure that he will be working with the structure of government and public sectors as well as NGOs; he understands the science, and once you do and you are committed you are on the right path.
“The reason we are here is because you [the UAE] have this model.”
ISSUP will hold its annual conference in the UAE in 2021. The event brings together specialists from all around the world to discuss challenges and new developments in the field.
This year the event was held in Vienna and was hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, along with support from US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
National Rehabilitation Centre Abu Dhabi Joins Ittc Network For Substance Use Prevention In Middle East
Sun, Feb 28, 2021
The National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) Abu Dhabi, a centre of excellence that collaborates with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the field of substance abuse in the middle East, today announced that it has joined the International Technology Transfer Centre (ITTC) network, making it the only entity from the region to become part of this network.
The network aims to develop the skills of professionals, organisations and systems that provide substance use prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery support services.
Dr. Hamad Al Ghafri, Director-General of the NRC, announced NRC’s affiliation at a virtual global event. Drawing the participation of senior officials from the U.S. Department of State and experts from the intergovernmental organisation, the Colombo Plan, the agenda of the event included a presentation by Dr. Dean Fixsen, the Implementation Scientist and Director, Active Implementation Research Network, Inc.
The ITTC Network will contribute to implementing the modules included in the training programmes not just in the UAE, but also in the wider region. The network covers South Africa, Ukraine and Vietnam, in addition to a coordination centre in the U.S. The ITTC’s scientific group receives support from the International Office of Drug Control and Law Enforcement (INL) of the State Department, which has a mandate to reduce drug demand, and is associated through a partnership with the International Consortium of Universities on Drug Demand Reduction (ICUDDR).
Commenting on this announcement, Dr. Al Ghafri, said, "We are proud of NRC affiliation to ITTC Network. This is a remarkable milestone for our team in supporting training opportunities, building national technical capabilities, and supporting international collaboration through NRC’s partnership with several like-minded organisations in Egypt, Sudan and Seychelles."
He noted that most of the research and technology in the field of addictions is developed in the U.S. and Europe.
"Our speciality is continuously evolving. Therefore, it is imperative to keep up to date with the recent developments in this rapidly growing field. The nature of this field has led to the development of training that includes evidence-based research such as the Universal Treatment Curriculum (UTC) and the Universal Prevention Curriculum (UPC)," Dr. Al Ghafri said in conclusion.
UAE Doctors Look To New Medication In The Fight Against Drug Use
Sun, Oct 29, 2017
A drug that can save the life of an overdosing addict and a treatment to help users quit are among the tools that could save lives and help in the battle against addiction, experts said.
On the closing day of the International Society of Addiction Medicine conference in Abu Dhabi, drug experts singled out several key treatments that they hope will soon be available.
A National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) official said it is hoped the government will make naloxone - which can save the life of an overdosing addict - more widely available. At present, it is largely hospitals, doctors and paramedics have access to the injection. They also await a new new nasal spray designed for easier use.
Dr Ahmad El Kashef, head of research at the NRC, said he does not know how long it will take before this happens, adding that it “depends on approvals, maybe a year.”
“We already wrote a recommendation and it was approved a year ago in the US and immediately after, we requested that it gets approved here as well.
“In the UAE it is mostly used in emergency rooms, ambulances and at the NRC, and there must be a doctor’s prescription because it is only available by injection. We still don’t have the nasal spray.”
Naloxone, which cannot be abused, could be kept at home by the families of recovering users.
The intention would be that if users did get their hands on a drug and overdose, a family member could save their life.
First Treatment Unit For Adolescent Addicts In Abu Dhabi Soon
Thu, Oct 26, 2017
Abu Dhabi: Within the next six months, the UAE’s first rehabilitation facility, the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), will launch a dedicated unit for the treatment of adolescent addicts aged 14 years and upwards, it was announced in the capital on Thursday.
The aim is to reduce the number of individuals suffering from substance abuse, especially as the vast majority of addicts are known to start between 12 and 25 years of age.
“At present, we offer outreach for juvenile offenders through the justice system, and also conduct prevention programmes through schools. But the new unit will allow young addicts to seek treatment voluntarily, even before their addictions become serious or [cause them to get into trouble with the law],” Dr Ahmad Yousuf, head of psychiatry at the NRC, told Gulf News.
“The hope is that rehabilitation programmes for youth will also reduce the number of young adults suffering from substance abuse disorders. After all, 47 per cent of our patients at the NRC are aged between 22 and 29 years, followed by 26.5 per cent of patients aged 30 to 39 years,” he added.
Dr Yousuf was speaking on the sidelines of the 19th annual conference of the International Society of Addiction Medicine, which kicked off in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. More than 500 experts in addiction medicine, including psychiatrists, researchers and nurses from 40 countries, are attending the four-day conference, which focuses on developments in the treatment, diagnosis and prevention of substance abuse.
The NRC, which is organising the conference, is the first rehab centre in the UAE, and currently operates from a custom-built facility in Shakhbout City with 169 patient beds. Since 2002, it has provided treatment to 3,100 Emirati patients, including 60 women.
Since January this year, the facility also accepts expatriates for treatment, who must pay Dh120,000 for a four-week voluntary inpatient programme, or Dh230,000 for a six-week inpatient programme that is mandated for addicts by judicial order. This is then followed by a 16-week outpatient programme that costs Dh70,000.
Experts at the conference reported that marijuana or cannabis is the most widely abused drug in the Middle East. But the region also has the highest annual prevalence of opioid use, with about three per cent of those aged 15 to 64 years misusing the drugs. Lately, the abuse of prescription pills, like opiates and anti-epileptic medication, has also grown dramatically.
Dr Hamad Al Gaffari, director-general of the NRC, reiterated his call to view addiction not as a crime but as an illness that leads to changes in brain functioning.
“We must understand that nearly 95 per cent of addicts start the misuse of substances between 12 and 25 years, an age during which the brain is not fully developed and therefore prone to addiction-related changes. In addition, substance abuse has a genetic component because we know that an individual who has a family member with substance abuse problems has a 50 per cent higher risk of developing it too,” said Dr Thomas McLellan, chairman at US-based think tank Treatment Research Institute. Dr McLellan is also senior scientific editor of the respected substance misuse report, ‘Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health’.
“Punishment has little to no effect towards reducing addiction. Instead, addicts need to be treated as chronically ill patients who need long-term care and monitoring, as you would offer to a diabetic,” he advised.
Abu Dhabi considering drug courts In a bid to better treat addicts who get on the wrong side of the law, Abu Dhabi is considering the introduction of special courts to deal with drug cases. The issue will be explored in a dedicated session on Sunday (October 29) at the 19th annual conference of the International Society of Addiction Medicine.
Hamad Al Gaffari, director-general OF the UAE’s first rehab facility, the National Rehabilitation Centre, earlier said that specialised experts with full knowledge of the treatment process would be involved in trials conducted at drug courts. In this manner, the defendant’s or patient’s rehabilitation will also be monitored, and relapses can be prevented.
“The aftercare of addicts is still a challenge, and such courts would be a step in the right direction,” Al Gaffari said in the capital on Thursday.
The UAE has already taken steps to reduce the sentence for those caught using illegal drugs. In October 2016, a presidential decree downgraded the use of illicit substances to a misdemeanour with a two-year minimum jail sentence, down from the four-year minimum sentence instituted in the previous 1995 law. Judges can also now refer first-time offenders to rehabilitation, can impose a Dh10,000 maximum fine, or sentence them to community service.
Fight Against Hepatitis C Should Be Regional, Abu Dhabi Conference Hears
Fri, Oct 27, 2017
Hepatitis C can be eliminated as a public health threat by 2030 if tackled regionally, audiences heard this weekend at the International Society of Addiction Medicine conference in Abu Dhabi.
The World Health Organisation global health sector strategy requires the reduction of new Hepatitis C infections by 90 per cent.
The WHO had previously called for an urgent global response and comprehensive public health approach to treat people at all levels of society.
“We have heard today that this is not an easy goal and sometimes it seems almost impossible,” said Hannu Alho, a professor of addiction medicine at the University of Helsinki. “What is the reason for that? It’s a hidden disease and sometimes patients do not know they are infected.”
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C but more than 95 per cent of patients can be completely cured within three months of treatment with antiviral medication. Yet only 20 per cent of those with hepatitis C knew they have the virus. Its symptoms may not be apparent for years.
The blood born virus is normally passed through exposure to small quantities of blood, often by injection drug use needles, unsafe health care and the transfusion of unscreened blood.
In the UAE, statistics from the National Rehabilitation Centre indicate that about 60 per cent of intravenous drug users have hepatitis C.
Patients at the centre found to be positive receive counselling and medical treatment for Hepatitis C, a policy that has been in place since the centre opened in 2002.
However, experts cautioned that problem must be tackled regionally.
“If you’re treating this successfully in the Gulf and you’re not focusing the intense exchange with neighbouring countries, like Pakistan and Egypt, then you will not successfully treat this illness,” said Dr Stephan Walcher, an addiction specialist from Concept Center for Addiction Medicine in Munich, Germany.
Reformed drug addicts share their stories about the horrors of addiction and the long, painful journey back to normalcy as they learned to let go of their drug dependence. These stories reveal how a life that is full of promise can go off the rails under the influence of drugs and what it takes to fight back. These stories of reform and commitment to one’s betterment are as inspiring as they are also lessons in how easy it is to court self-destruction.
I started taking drugs when I was 17. I started with the painkiller medication Tramadol. Within a month, I was hooked on to it. There were many reasons why I went down this road: I had friends outside school who influenced me negatively. Also, there was this girl, a neighbour, with whom I fell in love. But she got married and that broke my heart. I was weak-minded and these factors hit me hard. I could not control myself and I veered towards drugs to numb the feelings of pain. I would also say that when a family unit is not strong, it has a role to play [in how an individual goes off the right path.
I remember in the beginning, I would sometimes come home full of aggression, in a bad mood. My parents would put that down to me having been in a fight with friends. Nobody made the effort to sit me down and ask me what was happening to me and why I was so full of aggression always. The worst thing about that phase of addiction was that one day, I turned around and attacked my father. That incident made me realise just how far down the road of destruction I had travelled - I realised that I needed to make the big decision of my life. I could continue down this [destructive] path or I could change direction and return to myself.
I knew that if I changed for the better, I would be able to stay with my family and have a better life — so I chose to go the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) to get the needed help. It’s been over one year since my treatment began and I feel much better now. I still feel guilty about some of the things I did in the past. At the time, I only felt temporary happiness, but now I know it was not a good life. Thankfully, now I am taking charge of my life, and changing things around for the better.
My initiation into the world of narcotics began out of a sense of curiosity. I wanted to experience what it was like [to take drugs]. It didn’t help that I had peers who pressured me to go down this path. They would tell me that [taking drugs] would make me happy and that I would enjoy the experience. However you soon discover that this is a lie. It doesn’t lead to happiness. When I entered the life of drugs, I never expected that it would lead me down a road filled with problems. My addiction destroyed my relationships with the people around, like my wife and children. I eventually ended up in jail and my family gave me two choices, stay in jail or go to the NRC and change my life. I decided to go with the latter to change my life around. When I first became addicted, my personality underwent a change - I was both aggressive and nervous. I would often lose grip on daily situations when dealing with people and because of my behaviour, my wife and children became scared of me.
My behaviour got increasingly worse over time and it led me to episodes wherein I would beat my wife and children. The lowest point came when I had thoughts of killing my children – one time, I caught one of my children and tried to throw him out from the window, and it was the intervention of my wife which prevented that from happening. Whenever I think back on that incident, I cannot believe I was ready to commit such a crime. I am appalled at how bad and low I was. I used to see fear and sadness in the eyes of my children. It was when I was in prison that I decided to turn my life around. So I started from ground zero with the NRC. First they conducted my full medical check-up, and after which, began the process of detoxification of my body to cleanse me of the drugs and treat me of the habit of addiction. It was not an easy period. I felt tired, nervous, and my whole body was in pain. I could not sleep, but slowly, over time, my body started to adjust to the treatment.
As part of my rehabilitation process, I was also taken to lectures and gatherings with other people who had similar experiences, and we would be able to talk to one another to share our stories. I would like to thank the NRC for the help they provided me; they helped me from both a medical and social perspective. Before I went into their programme and care, my life was totally damaged, but thanks to their programme, I have been able to start rebuilding my life. I have now made a vow to protect my family and to never return to addiction. Today, I am proud to say that it’s been two years and six months since my treatment and I feel happy in general, and take pride in my family and the people who helped and encouraged me.
I started getting into narcotic addiction when I was 16 and at school. There were many contributing factors that led to this – I had bad friends, and I was also having problems at home. I had lost my father when I was young, and this had a very big impact on me because when I lost him, I felt like I had nobody around me. I took all kinds of narcotics – painkiller pills, hashish, and cocaine. I will never forget the day when, completely under the influence of drugs, I tried to kill my brother. I tried to kill him by running him over with my car. I also lost a friend to narcotic use – I brought some drugs for him and he overdosed and died. I can’t forget his face. This was basically my life during the addiction period. I am now getting treatment at the NRC and hope to change things for the better, and to never return to narcotics addiction ever.
What is drug addiction?
Scientific research shows that drug addiction is a disease. It is a chronic, often relapsing, brain disease that causes compulsive drug-seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the drug addict and those around them. The abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain. Some forms of addiction have their roots deep in the cells of people who use drugs ... which causes such intense stress that using drugs seems like a reasonable route. There are both biological and environmental factors that contribute to addiction. Scientists are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities. In most cases, environmental factors, including beliefs and attitudes of people around the victim and exposure to a peer group that encourages drug use, also play a role in initial drug use.
National Rehabilitation Centre launches capacity-building initiative on drug and alcohol prevention in UAE, Middle East Region
Sat, May 29, 2021
The National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre of excellence in the field of substance abuse in the Middle East, is set to organise a capacity building training event in the field of drug and alcohol abuse prevention. The programme will take place virtually from May 30 to June 4.
The training targets policymakers and specialists from the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, as well as Egypt and Sudan.
The first of its kind training programme in the Middle East emerged as a result of the NRC’s strategic memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Office of International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Affairs of the US Department of State (INL). Based on the MoU, NRC has been accredited as a training hub for Colombo Plan programmes for the Middle East region.
The training programme, which will be held over a period of five days, includes nine main topics based on the ‘Universal Prevention Curriculum (UPC)’, which was developed by the ‘Colombo Plan’ team. Dr Hamad Abdullah Al-Ghafri, Director General of NRC, will participate in delivering those virtual training sessions along with specialists from the centre and the "Colombo Plan" team.
The capacity building programme follows the NRC’s prevention and early intervention strategy. Both elements are considered to be an effective way to reduce the consequences of substance abuse in society, especially at a time when many countries around the world are recording a rise in drug and alcohol abuse rates.
This programme aims to engage senior officials and policy makers in awareness-raising efforts on the importance of prevention and drug abuse management, in addition to enabling front-liners to receive specialised training on the comprehensive prevention approach and drug abuse prevention practices.
Speaking about the initiative, Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, Director General of the NRC said, "We are witnessing profound efforts globally to tackle all forms of addiction, yet there remains more to be done to bring about lasting solutions to this dilemma. In NRC, we are proud to become the first entity in the Middle East to provide training programmes that are engineered in accordance to a comprehensive prevention approach."
He went on to add: "The programme will enable front-liners and specialists to understand the UPC developed by Colombo Plan. At NRC, we are keen to monitor all societal behavioural developments for all age groups at the local or global level, and to look for their causes and the extent of their impact on pushing community members to adapt behaviours that may lead them to addiction".
Al Ghaferi concluded by saying: "Awareness and prevention are fundamental to protecting society especially the youth who represent our future."
In February 2021, NRC announced that it has joined the International Technology Transfer Centre (ITTC) network, making it the only entity from the Gulf region to become part of this network. The ITTC network includes entities from South Africa, Ukraine and Vietnam, in addition to a coordination centre in the United States. The ITTC Network aims to develop the skills of professionals, organisations and systems that provide substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery support services.
Clinic for treating gaming addicts to open in UAE in 2020
Sun, Nov 10, 2019
The National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), the UAE's leading rehabilitation body, will open the outpatient clinic at its premises in Abu Dhabi to serve both Emiratis and expatriates in the country, said Dr. Hamad Al Ghaferi, Director -General of the NRC.
"The NRC is welcoming all patients [who are addicted to any behaviour] to come and seek help from us. Gaming addiction is mainly a behavioural issue and we are building the capacity and training our workforce to deal with any sort of addictive behaviours," he explained.
The NRC's initiative to open the clinic for gaming addicts is in the wake of a decision of the World Health Organisation, WHO, which added gaming addiction to its International Classification of Diseases, ICD, Al Ghaferi said.
The WHO released the 11th revision of the ICD in mid-2018, which defined the gaming disorder as a pattern of gaming behaviour ("digital-gaming" or "video-gaming") characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities.
The inclusion of a disorder in ICD is a consideration, which countries take into account when planning public health strategies and monitoring trends of disorders, WHO said.
According to the NRC, video games, and in particular mobile gaming, remains extremely popular in the UAE.
The UAE is consistently ranked amongst the world's top 100 gaming markets based on revenue source, with more than 80 per cent of smartphone users in the UAE identifying themselves as 'mobile gamers,' said a study by the gaming analytics firm Newzoo in 2019.
However, the NRC has not treated any cases of gaming addiction as of now, Al Ghaferi revealed. "We did not receive any patients as such. We have to raise awareness within the community and we have to alert families about this possible problem," he noted.
It is the addicts' right to seek help and the NRC will offer the treatment, bearing in mind that each individual is different from others and he or she has to be tackled accordingly, the official explained on the sidelines of the 6th meeting on Public Health Implications of Behavioural Addictions, currently being held in Abu Dhabi.
The meeting brings together academics and clinicians from around the world to discuss health conditions, diagnoses and rehabilitation programmes associated with excessive use of the internet and other communication and gaming platforms.
"The participation in the meeting will give us more ideas about tackling this issue," Al Ghaferi said.
The NRC is joining hands with Japanese experts who have conducted a study about gaming addiction in Japan. "We will work with them and utilise the studies they conducted."
He said the NRC would modify the modalities of the Japanese study and try to apply them to the UAE community to assess the magnitude of the problem. It may help find the prevalence of gaming addiction among particular nationalities, age groups etc., the official said.
Panel created to develop gaming disorder screen tool
Sun, Nov 10, 2019
a major breakthrough, a panel was created in the capital today to
develop an internationally agreed upon screening test that will identify
panel will consist of medical experts from across the world, including
the UAE’s own rehabilitation centre, the National Rehabilitation Centre,
and the World Health Organisation.
The tool will be developed within the next two years, it was disclosed.
addiction has only been endorsed globally as a medical condition this
May, so we are yet to have internationally agreed upon screening and
treatment tools. This meeting has therefore been groundbreaking in
helping the global medical community come together to develop the
necessary tools to identify and treat this condition,” Susumu Higuchi, a
global pioneer and director of Japan’s National Centre for Addiction
Services, told Gulf News.
was speaking on the sidelines of a three-day meeting convened by the
NRC to discuss addictions, including gaming disorder, one of the latest
mental health conditions to be recognised. In fact, the disorder was
only endorsed in May 2019 as a health threat by the International
Classification of Diseases, which lists all diagnoses and symptoms
treated by healthcare professionals.
initiative, the NRC announced yesterday that it will open a dedicated
outpatient clinic in the capital to treat gaming addicts. Dr Hamad Al
Ghaferi, Director General of the NRC, said today that the clinic will
begin welcoming patients within the first quarter of 2020. While
Emiratis will receive treatment free of charge, expat patients will only
be charged fees that are nominal compared to international treatment
costs, he added.
Al Ghaferisaid, “The inclusion of gaming addiction to the International
Classification of Diseases has helped us understand the seriousness of
this issue in the UAE and around the world. It not only provides us with
the ability to develop the programmes and resources required to help
those in need, but it also gives us the opportunity to study its
prevalence and develop treatment recommendations to this condition.”
Higuchi, who has been working to combat the disorder in Japan for more
than a decade, hailed the NRC’s foresight. in setting up the clinic.
most worrying thing about this condition is that 70 per cent of those
affected are adolescents. So the NRC clinic will help tackle a problem
that is increasing in magnitude among the youth,” he explained.
it is difficult to ascertain the prevalence of gaming addiction, Dr
Higuchi estimates that it affects 0.5 per cent to 27 per cent of each
Mortality, health risks
its mild forms, the addiction can interfere with a patient’s daily
life. But mortalities have been reported, the first in the United
Kingdom in 1999 and the second in South Korea in 2003.
course, death only occurs in extreme cases, mainly because of prolonged
inactivity causing a blood clot that leads to cardiac arrest or a
stroke. But like all other addictions, gaming disorder has many
comorbidities, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, and substance
abuse,” warned Dr Anas Mohammad, head of health education at the NRC.
games, and in particular mobile gaming, remains extremely popular in
the UAE. According to a study, the UAE is consistently ranked amongst
the world’s top 100 gaming markets based on revenue source, with more
than 80 per cent of smartphone users in the UAE identifying themselves
as ‘mobile gamers’. Dr Al Ghaferi however cautioned that this does not
speak to the magnitude of the issue in the UAE, adding that the NRC is
now running a pilot study to determine this.
Higuchi likened gaming addiction to addiction to tobacco or alcohol. He
explained that those affected face a similar disinterest in other forms
of entertainment, and often end up confined in their rooms, which
further exacerbates comorbidities like depression, anxiety, reduction in
brain volume and loss of muscle tone.
Treating the addiction
experts are yet to agree upon a clinical treatment pathway, they say
that effective interventions will combine counselling, cognitive
behavioral therapies and medication.
instance, at the Kurihama Medical and Addiction Centre that I oversee
in Japan, we ask patients to attend group counselling sessions that last
from an hour to an hour-and-a-half. We also prescribe medicines to help
control ADHD or depression so that the patients resume normal
activities like going to school,” Dr Higuchi said.
His Excellency Dr. Hamad Al Ghafri is elected president of the International Society Of Addiction Medicine (ISAM)
Mon, Jul 20, 2020
The International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) has announced that His Excellency Dr. Hamad Al Ghafri has been elected as its new President Elect. Dr. Al Ghafri, who is currently the Director General of the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), will hold the position of President Elect for three years, followed by three years as President. Dr. Al Ghafri becomes the first GCC national to hold this position.
The announcement is a significant one as it marks a new chapter for ISAM and its efforts in combatting addiction around the world. It also establishes the NRC and the role it has played in working with the World Health Organization (WHO) in supporting international efforts in combating addictions and providing the best services for prevention and rehabilitation. The support of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice Chairman of the Council Ministers and Minister of Presidential Affairs of the Center has been instrumental in achieving the goals of combating addiction in the UAE.
The International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) was founded in 1998, by an international fellowship of physicians and specialists, with the aim of conducting research and deepening the understanding and broadening the scope of addiction treatment worldwide. The association has close partnerships with a range of international organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The association hosts major conferences around the world to collect and exchange important information about addiction and the ways to prevent and treat it.
Cooperation between the National Center for Rehabilitation (NRC) and the International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) dates to 2009, when His Excellency Dr. Hamad Al Ghafri hosted a delegation from ISAM to showcase the nature of the NRC’s work and to advice on ways to develop the performance of the Society. Since then, His Excellency has regularly participated with ISAM in their annual conferences where he has presented scientific research on addiction-related topics. The NRC also hosted the nineteenth annual conference of the Society in Abu Dhabi in 2017. It was during this session that His Excellency was nominated and elected as a member of the Board of Directors of ISAM. Today, this cooperation has culminated in Dr. Al Ghafri being elected as President Elect of ISAM.
Commenting on his appointment Dr. Al Ghafri said: "I am honoured that the members of ISAM have chosen me to fulfil this role during the next phase of the society, which will be defined by the obstacles we face related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has not only impacted the global economy but has facilitated the emergence of new addictive behaviours that we have not seen previously. I look forward to working at ISAM and continuing its close cooperation with the NRC.”
“The NRC has been working closely with ISAM for more than a decade, with a focus on combining clear goals and efforts to diagnose addiction, its behaviours and to develop methods for prevention and treatment. Our focus has always been on sharing important information and enhancing cooperation and coordination between addiction stakeholders around the world.”
Dr. Hamad Al Ghaferi has a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and General Surgery from The University of Jordan’s College of Medicine, a Master’s degree in Public Health from Tulane University, and a PhD in Primary Health Care and Addiction from the College of Medicine at the University of Aberdeen.
Dr. Hamad Al-Ghaferi has held several key positions within local and international organizations and his extensive experience includes working within a range of institutions and local and international committees concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of addiction. From 2010-2012 he chaired the International Consultative Committee consisting of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). He has also led the National Committee for Treatment and Rehabilitation and is a member of the Drug Control Council in the United Arab Emirates.
Covid-19: UAE residents urged to watch out for drug abuse
Fri, Jun 26, 2020
with addictive behaviours and substance abuse concerns are especially
at risk of contracting the coronavirus and suffering from its
complications, a top health official has warned.
Hamad Al Ghaferi, director general at the National Rehabilitation
Centre (NRC), has therefore cautioned families to watch out for warning
signs in order to ensure that addicts do not relapse into problematic
with addiction are immunocompromised, and are therefore more prone to
contracting COVID-19, as well as suffering from its complications. But
in addition, the strict social environment and social isolation has
increased their risk of suffering from mood disorders,” Dr Al Ghaferi
told Gulf News.
have noted that 41 per cent of patients with addiction have developed
post-traumatic stress disorder, while seven per cent have come down with
depression. In addition, there has been a 75 per cent increase in
online gaming addictions,” he added.
official was speaking on the International Day against Drug Abuse and
Illicit Trafficking, which is marked annually on June 26 to strengthen
action and cooperation towards a society free of drug abuse.
NRC offers rehabilitation services in Abu Dhabi, and has noted that
prescription medications and heroin are the most widely abused
substances in the UAE after tobacco.
Al Ghaferi advised families and community organisations to keep an eye
on their vulnerable members, especially those who had previously
suffered from addiction issues.
you notice empty bottles lying around the house, or a disinterest in
previously enjoyable activities, it is best to consult an expert,” he
observation has been that women with addiction have been more prone to
mood disorders during this coronavirus crisis, as are those within lower
income groups and those in conflict with the law or the community.
These people need access to mental health services during this
challenging time, as well as security of housing, food and medicine,”
the official added.
National Rehabilitation Centre: 19 years of developing drug addiction treatment approaches, tools
Sun, May 09, 2021
ABU DHABI, 9th May, 2021 (WAM) -- Since its establishment 19 years ago, the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) has sought to offer services to all segments of the UAE’s community, through utilising the latest methods of drug addiction treatment, prevention and rehabilitation.
In a statement to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Dr. Hamad Al Ghaferi, NRC Director-General, said, "The laws in the UAE prevent drug addicts from legal liability if they voluntarily agree to receive treatment, which we take seriously at the NRC."
Drug addiction treatment comprises five phases, starting with a comprehensive assessment, followed by a treatment plan, re-assessment, removing narcotics from the patient's body, and treatment and rehabilitation under internal section programmes. These are then followed by further treatment, rehabilitation in outpatient clinics, monitoring and relapse prevention, he added.
The NRC has signed a partnership agreement with the McLean Harvard Hospital and the Matrix Institute on Addictions in the US, he noted.
The NRC was established in 2002, upon the directives of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
In 2020, the NRC treated 1,056 patients, and has helped 4,805 since its establishment. Some 51 patients benefit from virtual sessions held on a weekly basis by the NRC, as part of the "Matrix Relapse Prevention Programme" provided by its outpatient clinics.
The NRC is open for visits and can be contacted for reservations through the free toll number, 8002252, or via its platforms on social media.
NRC to Host an International Symposium on Co-occurring Addiction and Mental Health
Sat, Jan 16, 2016
Within the strategic plan of National Rehabilitation Centre to lessen the burden of the patients suffering from addiction and developing capabilities of UAE nationals within the field of Psychiatry and Addiction in regional standards, NRC in partnership with Harvard University and McLean Hospital USA and Lundbeck Institute Norway will be conducting an International Symposium on Commonly Co-occurring mental disorders with substance use disorders on the 15th and 16th of January 2016 at the Hilton Capital Grand Hotel Abu Dhabi. This is done in order to enable the National Rehabilitation Center to play one of its CME role in education and training and capacity building at international standards. On top on that utilizing the different MoU’s that NRC has with other partners H.E. Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi Director General of the NRC said “it is with great honor for the Country and the NRC to bring such experts from the filed together and it is a rare opportunity for clinicians in the region and the UAE to discuss this serious problem.” The conference will be focusing on depression, anxiety and addictions. The Symposium brings together top experts in the area from McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School USA as well as local experts to discuss how to manage these conditions in the best and most culturally appropriate way, and will bring the latest updates and state-of-the-art practices in diagnosing and treating these disorders. Participants will learn about all modalities of treatment through a variety of teaching methods, including didactic lectures and interactive panel discussions. This conference will be a rare opportunity for regional and local clinicians to hear the experts and discuss the challenges faced in their practice.
NRC Presented Scientific Research At UNODC Commission On Narcotic Drugs Meeting
Sat, Jul 15, 2017
A delegation from the National Rehabilitation Center (NRC) recently presented an overview of its expertise on the prevention and treatment of drug overdose at the 57th Session of Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) held in United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna.
H.E. Dr. Hamad Al Ghaferi, NRC's Director General participated in a scientific discussion that came with recommendations presented to the ministers and agents responsible for drug prevention globally, in the attendance of Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden.
NRC presented a research paper which covered the top challenges the center faces in delivering prevention, rehabilitation, and aftercare programs. Statistics related to drug overdose were also revealed, for example, the number of drug overdose patients during the last four years was recorded at 33 patients. Around 42% were under 30 years old while around 58% were between the ages of 30-45. NRC statistics have also revealed that 76% of the total number of drug overdose cases were related to opioid addiction.
During its 57th session, the CND approved a set of recommendations which included: the importance of dealing with the substance use as a disease to be treated, and not as a legal or ethical issue; methods and quality of treatment which should be tailored to the type and intensity of disorder associated with drug abuse; and, that the treatment level should be based on the type and intensity of the disease. Continued collaboration, coordination among scientists and researchers, and engaging the primary healthcare sector, and activating its role in the early detection of the disorder were also officially recommended. Additionally, the recommendations confirmed that dealing with this issue as a crime and setting criminal sanctions without the appropriate therapeutic intervention was often leading to negative results.
Taking place on the sidelines of the CND, NRC and Colombo Plan formally launched the quarterly ‘International Journal for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse’. The medical resource focuses on psychology, addiction, substances and disorders related to drug use and encourages related regional researches and studies. NRC is the organization responsible for publishing the journal in the Arabic language – a first for the region.
H.E. Al Ghaferi said: “The UAE has made significant strides in the field of rehabilitation over the last few years; our participation in the UNODC CND meeting cements the role the UAE is playing internationally. By being active participants at this meeting, we had the chance to sit with our counterparts and benefit from knowledge sharing, data collection, response and monitoring.”
H.E Al Ghaferi concluded: “We would like to thank all of our partners in the UNODC for inviting the NRC to take part in this important meeting as we were able to demonstrate our expertise and also learn from our counterparts. We mutually believe in the importance of expanding accessibility to substance dependence treatment and care, strengthening the scientific base at the international level and working with decision makers to generate effective policies based on proper scientific data and practical execution.”