Drug abuse has become a cause of concern among parents, especially those with kids in primary grades. Alarmingly, a study has found that the age of drug users has been “dropping”, with the youngest being a 12-year-old. “Abuse of narcotic drugs has been steadily increasing in Omani society despite all efforts made to prevent it,” says the study conducted by Dr Majdi Abdraboo, Assistant Professor of Society and Labour Department, Sultan Qaboos University.
It showed some students in Grades 5 to 12, mostly boys, were caught smoking or chewing tobacco inside schools.
In most cases, the habit started due to curiosity, false beliefs, bad company, family breakdowns, loss of faith, or social/ financial problems.
A mind-boggling sum is being spent on narcotic drugs in Oman. In 2016, people convicted for use and possession of narcotics roughly spent RO 10 million, says the study. It is estimated at RO 313-448 per person each month.
Although a total of 372 abusers were registered in the National Register in 2015, the study suggests the actual number could be ten times more when one looks at the number of drug-related cases in the same year: 4,841.
The problem, however, is not related to the family income alone. Several factors are responsible for children getting into drugs.
“There is a relation between drug abuse and parents’ low educational levels. From the total study sample which covered patients undergoing treatment, the sentenced and survivors, 36 per cent of users’ fathers and 54 per cent of mothers were illiterate,” said the study.
It suggested that positive discussion and healthy communication between parents and children result in self-confidence and wise decision-making.
On the government front, the Sultanate has adopted a comprehensive strategy that depends on three main elements: prevention, control, treatment.
Col Abdulrahim al Farsi, Director-General of Narcotics Control at Royal Oman Police (ROP), said the force makes great efforts to keep dealers and smugglers on land, sea and air barriers at bay.
Earlier this year, the number of drugs cases declined by 63 per cent, thanks to the efforts in tracing attempts to smuggle in drugs using state-of-the-art equipment. Strict laws have helped as well.
Besides, the DG spares no efforts in spreading awareness and conducting intensive educational programmes.
Affiliated to the Ministry of Health, the National Committee for Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances was formed to establish prevention and treatment plans to tackle illegal use of drugs and psychotropic substances, follow up on their implementation, in addition to conducting studies and scientific research on the same.
A number of private, government and civil initiatives take place for tackling the issue and enlightening individuals inside and outside schools about the consequences of drug abuse.
Zainab al Nassri