The NRC mandated by law number (7) for 2010, under article 4.12 the NRC to conduct research and studies to understand and to effectively respond to addiction and under article 4.9 to develop monitoring and evaluation (surveillance programs) that stem from research.

In the context of increasing trend of drug and alcohol use in the region (World Drug Report, 2019), there is an urgent need for accurate data and information to formulate appropriate policies, develop services and conduct effective preventive interventions. Research activity on substance misuse and addictions in the Middle East Region and Arabic speaking countries, measured by publications in international journal, compared to the USA, Western Countries and Asia is reported as minimal. Addressing this gap is a priority for the NRC.

In 2017, the NRC was designated a WHO Collaborative Centre for substance use prevention and treatment of substance use disorder issues. The NRC as a research centre is a key objective and the work plan and agreed activity includes multi-centre studies, epidemiology of substance abuse, drug toxicology, and clinical research on medical/health effects of substance abuse and co-occurring infections. Contributing to regional capacity building and research output in substance use disorders is a key theme.

The Research Section at the NRC was created in 2011 and is in the process of establishing a research infrastructure within the NRC. The research agenda is derived and is in line with the overall NRC strategic plan, and can best be described as applied, clinical and translational.



  • To be a global leading centre in addiction research, in line with NRC mandate and the UAE vision and National Strategy of Innovation (2014).


  • To meet the strategic objectives of the NRC.
  • To position the NRC as an internationally credible research and development and innovation center
  • To establish a broad portfolio of cutting edge, multidisciplinary addiction research
  • To establish sustainable cost-effective economic treatment and diagnostic services with a potential for dissemination and commercialization
  • To generate the resources for research including collaboration with the medical industry and grant giving bodies
  • To contribute to collaborative and multicenter research that enhances treatment and care, prevention and early intervention
  • To build research and innovation capacity at the NRC and nationally
  • To demonstrate a strong governance framework
  • To develop services and interventions using cutting edge technology e.g. Artificial Intelligence and Holograms
  • To build research and innovation capacity at the NRC and nationally
  • To have a strong governance framework


  • Epidemiology (surveillance) and public health research including cultural, and sociological and anthropological research
  • Basic science research of the effects of new psychoactive substances and translational research (e.g. Genetics and pharmacology research)
  • Medical/health consequences of substance abuse
  • Co-morbidity (infections [HIV, HCV, TB and others], trauma, anxiety, depression)
  • Health Services and Policy Research (e.g. Treatment Outcomes and pedagogic research)
  • Intervention research
  • Dissemination research
  • Digital addictions

If anyone is interested in doing research in the above areas or collaborating please get in touch with Dr Ali Al Marzooqi, Director of Research & Studies


Organogram and Staffing Establishment

The New NRC Organogram approved by the Abu Dhabi Executive Council in 2019 has a Director of Public Health and Research reporting to the Director General and has two research departments with Heads or Managers under him. These are Surveillance and Research and Studies departments with over 11 full time equivalent jobs. Recruiting suitable personnel to these posts is a high priority in the research strategy.


Research Committee

Part of the research infrastructure of the NRC is its well-established Research Committee. This committee has a strategic as well and operational remits. All projects and request of collaboration are to be approved by the Research Committee.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Having its own Abu Dhabi Department of Health approved Research Ethics Committee (REC) or IRB is a cornerstone of the NRC’s research infrastructure. This committee operates according to the DoH governance. According to the latest guidance by the DoH, clinical trials and biological research are required to receive additional approval by the DoH research ethics committee.



Recognising that collaboration with established international research centres in the field is key to developing a centre of excellence, the NRC has established key partnerships. It has Memoranda of Understanding (MoU’s) with WHO, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) USA, University of California Los Angeles Substance Abuse Integrated Center (UCLA), McLean Hospital (Psychiatric Affiliate of Harvard Medical School) and Aberdeen University (UK). MoU’s with IMPLEMENTAL (King’s College London and Maudsley Hospital), Africa and Middle East Congress of Addictions (AMECA) and International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) are currently being developed.

Locally, the NRC has a history of research collaboration structured by MOUs with the United Arab Emirates University, Abu Dhabi University, and Zayed University. It has also collaborated in research with Khalifa University. These collaborations are a central plank of the NRC’s research strategy.

1 - Recent Research Publications

  • Elarabi, H., Hasan, N., Marsden, J., Radwan, D., Adem, A., Almamari, S., Elrasheed, A. (2020). Therapeutic Drug Monitoring in Buprenorphine/Naloxone Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder: Clinical Feasibility and Optimizing Assay Precision. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2020; doi 10.1055/a-1083-6842
  • Elarabi, H., Elrasheed, A., Ali, A., Shawky, M., Hasan, N., Gawad, T.A., Adem, A. and Marsden, J. (2019). Suboxone Treatment and Recovery Trial (STAR-T). Study Protocol for a Randomised Controlled Trial of Opiod Medication Assisted Treatment with Adjunct Medication Management Using Therapeutic Drug Monitoring and Contingency Management. Journal of Addiction, Vol 2019, Article ID 2491063, DOI: 10.1155/2019/2491063.
  • Albalooshi, H., Al Safar, H., Fisher, H.F., Cordell, H., Elkashef,A., AlGhaferi, H.,Shawky, M… Tay, G (2019). Case-control genome wide association study of substance use disorder (SUD) identifies novel variants on chromosome 7p14.1 in patients from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B Neuropsychiatric Genetics. 180(1):68‐79. doi:10.1002/ajmg.b.32708
  • ElKashef,A., Alzayani,S., Shawky,M., AlAbri., Littlewood,R., Qassem, T., Alsharqi,A., Hjelmström, P., Abdel Wahab,M., Abdulraheem, M., Adel Alzayed,P. (2019) Recommendations to improve opioid use disorder outcomes in countries of the Middle East. Journal of Substance Use, 24:1, 4-7, DOI: 10.1080/14659891.2018.1489906
  • Al Ghafri, H., Elrasheed, A., Al Mamari, S., Assaf, M., Al Jenaibi, M. Elarabi, H., Alawadhi, A., Rashid, A., Al Meheri, A., Jawad, T., Yousif, A. and Elliott, S. (2018). Assessment of the Use of Point-Of –Care Pregabalin Testing For Drug Monitoring, Compared to Gas Chromatography Mass-Spectrometry – A Pilot Study. Journal of Medical Toxicology and Clinical Forensic Medicine, 4, 1:3, 1-3. DOI: 10.21767/2471-9641.100032.
  • Al-Ghafri, H., El-Rasheed, A., Ali, A.Y. and Al-Mamari, S. Carbohydrate Deficient Transferrin: How reliable is it as a Biomarker for Chronic Alcohol Consumption? International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, Vol.20, No. 2, pp 1-6 © 2018 OMICS International ISSN 1522-4821.

2 - Recent Research Publications

  • Elrasheed, A., Al Ghafri, H., Gawad, T.A., Al Arabi, H., Al Awadhi, A. and Ali, A.Y.
  • (2017). Changing Patterns of Substance Abuse: Analysis of Lab Test Results of a Patient Cohort at the National Rehabilitation Center, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. International Addiction Review, 1, 1, 22-27.
  • Elrasheed, A., Al Ghaferi, H. and Ali, A.Y. (2017). Assessment of Alcohol Exposure: Testing for Ethylglucuronide (Etg), Ethylsulfate (Ets). International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, Vol. 19, No.3, pp. 1, ISSN 1522-4821.
  • Al Ghaferi, H. A., Ali, A.Y., Gawad, T. A. and Wanigaratne, S. (2017). Developing Substance Misuse Services in United Arab Emirates: The National Rehabilitation Center experience. British Journal of Psychiatry International, 14 (4) 92-96.
  • Elkashef, A., Al Marzouqi, A., Simmons, L., Gawad, T. and Al Ghafri, H. (2017). Problematic Internet Use & Internet Addiction in the Arab World: A Review. International Addiction Review, 1, 1, 37-44.
  • Saaran, K., Al Ghafri, H., El Rasheed, A., Awadi, A. and Ali, A.Y. (2017). Hepatitis C Infection among Intravenous Drug Users. “A Silent Disease in an Invisible Population”. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, Vol.19, No. 3, 1-4.
  • Elkashef, A., Alhyas, L., Al Hashmi, H., Mohammed, D., Gonzalez, A., Paul, R., Wanigaratne, S., Gawad, T., Rawson, R., Al Marzooqi, A. and Al Ghaferi, H. (2017). National Rehabilitation Center programme performance measures in the United Arab Emirates, 2013. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 23, 3, 165-171.
  • Al Ghaferi, H., Bond, C. and Matheson, C. (2017). Does the biopsychosocial-spiritual model of addiction apply in an Islamic context? A qualitative study of Jordanian addicts in treatment. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 172, 14-20.

3 - Recent Research Publications

  • Alhassan, A.E.A. (2017). New Psychoactive Substances: “Chemical Chameleons” That Evade Detection and Legalizations. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, Vol. 19, 3. 1-4.
  • Alblooshi, H., Hulse, G.K., Elkashef, A., Al Hashmi, H., Shawky, M., Al Ghaferi, H., Al Safar, H. and Tay, G.K. (2016). The pattern of substance use disorders in the United Arab Emirates in 2015: results of a National Rehabilitation Centre cohort study. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy, 11:19.
  • Alhyas, L., Elarabi, H., El-Kashef, A., Wanigaratne, S., Almarzouqi, A., Alhosani, A and Al Ghaferi, H. (2015). Parents’ Perceptions and Beliefs on Adolescence and Substance Use: A Preliminary Qualitative Study in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Journal of Child and Adolescent Behavior, 3:2, 1-6, doi:10.4172/2375-4494.1000195.
  • Alhyas, L., Al Ozaibi, N., Elarabi, H., El-Kashef, A., Wanigaratne, S., Al Marzouqi, Al Hosani, A. and Al Ghaferi, H. (2015). Adolescents’ perceptions of substance use and factors influencing its use: a qualitative study in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)”. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 6 (2), 1-12, DOI: 10.1177/2054270414567167
  • Al Ghaferi, H. (2014). The Evolution of the National Rehabilitation Centre Abu Dhabi. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 49 (1), 11-12.
  • Elarabi, H., Al Ozaibi, N., Shawky, M., Wanigaratne, S., Salas, S., Al Hamedi, F., Al Maskari, B., Al Marzooqi, S., Al Khaja, A. and Al Ghaferi, H. (2014). Transforming a residential substance dependence program: Experience from the National Rehabilitation Centre, United Arab Emirates. Mental Health and Substance Use: Dual Diagnosis, 7 (4), 353-362.
  • Al Marzouqi, A., Matheson, C., Al Hashmi, H., Thomas, R.A., Lee, A.J., Bond, C., Al Ghaferi, H. and Elkashef, A. (2014). Current practices and attitudes of family physicians towards substance use disorders in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi: a cross-sectional survey in primary care. International Journal of Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders, 2, 84 - 97.

4 - Recent Research Publications

  • Al Ghaferi, H., Osman, O.T., Matheson, C., Wanigaratne, S. and Bond, C. (2013). Substance misuse in Arabic countries: the need for published research. International Journal of Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders, 1, 9-14.
  • El Kashef, A., Zoubeidi, T., Thomas, R.A., Al Hashmi, H., Lee, A.J., Tar-Ching, A., Osman, O.T., Blair, I, El Arabi, H.F., Al Ghaferi, H. (2013). A profile of patients with substance use disorders and treatment outcomes: A 10-year retrospective study from the National Rehabilitation Center. International Journal of Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders, 1, 86-108.
  • Elarabi, H., Hajal, S., Salas, S. and Wanigaratne, S. (2013). Training alone is not enough: The outcome of a training needs analysis with the nurses working in an addiction treatment centre in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Drug and Alcohol Review, 32 (supplement 1), 2 – 74.
  • Elarabi, H., Al Hamedi, F. and Wanigaratne, S. (2013). Rapid Analysis of Knowledge Atittudes and Practices towards substance addiction across different target groups in Abu Dhabi City, United Arab Emirates. International Journal of Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders, 1:1, 78-101.