Pubdate: Thu, 20 Sep 2007
Source: Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt)
Contact:  2007 Al-Ahram Weekly
Author: Reem Leila
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


The National Council for Fighting and Treating Addiction says 12 per cent
of Egypt's school students use drugs, reports Reem Leila

A study by the National Council for Fighting and Treating Addiction
(NCFTA) has revealed that 12.21 per cent of school students report using
drugs. Nine per cent of respondents said they had used bango, a strain of
marijuana, and three per cent reported using cannabis with the remaining
0.21 per cent reporting use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals and heroin.

The survey showed that 20 per cent of male students had used drugs at
least once, as opposed to four per cent of female students. It also
revealed that school students who smoke cigarettes are much more likely to
become drug users than non-smokers.

The majority of drug users, says NCFTA member Soheir Lutfi, are aged
between 15 and 25, followed by those aged between 25 and 35. The NCFTA's
strategy, he says, is to focus on reducing the demand for prohibited
drugs. "They will be available as long as a market exists which is why our
focus is to reduce the demand for narcotics through education while at the
same time seeking to reduce supplies."

The report warns that drug use, particularly of bango, is beginning at an
earlier age. It quoted the results of a 2004 study conducted by the
Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP) which "confirmed an increase of
cannabis abuse" and "stated that the onset of drug abuse has decreased
from 25 to 15".

The common perception is that bango is a relatively mild, recreational
drug with little or no risk of physical addiction. But while hashish and
bango have been available for centuries their use became increasingly
common in the 1980s, with the introduction of the open door policy. Drugs
began to enter the country in ever greater quantity and more people had
the money to buy them. Alexandria, the Gulf of Suez, Bilbeis, Qantara and
Sudan are still the main points of entry, says Deputy Minister of Health
Abdel-Rahman El-Sakka, and "despite government efforts, Southern Sinai
still has drug plantations".

Problems become more serious, says El-Sakka, with the growing use of other
kinds of drugs such as cocaine and heroine, where the shared use of
needles can lead to the spread of Hepatitis C and AIDS.

In response to the problem, the National Council for Childhood and
Motherhood (NCCM) began a programme a year ago which seeks to educate
young people about the harmful effects of both drug use and cigarettes.
Mushira Khattab, secretary-general of the NCCM, says the scheme is
implemented by the NCCM in cooperation with the regional unit of the
United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDPC),
psychiatrists, sociologists and several non-governmental organisations.

Hashish and bango are often affordable and available to young students.
Some may also use solvents and inhalants for the same reason. Few children
abuse alcohol because of its cost, though lax supervision in pharmacies,
which frequently provide medication without prescription, means many
psychoactive drugs fall into the hands of school children.

"The use of prescription drugs by school children and young people is
becoming a serious problem in Egypt," says Khattab. She believes such drug
misuse is best tackled by making the education system more inclusive to
the needs and rights of all learners and by raising awareness among school
children about the dangers of drug abuse. The NCCM scheme seeks to
encourage schools to accept, not exclude, children with drug abuse
problems, to encourage children to talk openly, and train teachers about
drug issues and how to answer students' questions. "I believe that if we
are to tackle the problem of drug abuse and sustain the rights of all
children the Ministry of Education must adopt these sorts of initiatives
as part of a national strategy," says Khattab.

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