Pubdate: Sat, 25 Jun 2011
Source: Daily Star, The (Lebanon)
Copyright: 2011 The Daily Star


BEIRUT: Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil called for an urgent national
policy Friday to combat drug abuse throughout the country, revealing
that nearly 4 percent of addicts are students.

Speaking on the occasion of International Day against Drug Abuse and
Illicit Trafficking at the Lebanese University, Khalil said that the
reason laws on drugs have not been implemented is because the
government lacks the proper infrastructure.

"If implemented, the anti-drug law passed in 1998 could have organized
the relationship between the addict and the ministries in finding
proper treatments in agreement with international standards," said

One of the most important clauses of the 1998 law is that it requires
the government to consider drug addicts as ill people and not criminals.

"Based on these dangers we have stressed to have a national project
that tackles these challenges through workshops ... but we all know
that workshops alone are not sufficient and there must be a
willingness on the part of the government, unions and associations and
civil society, which plays a primary role," Khalil said.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 210 million
people use illicit drugs every year and almost 200,000 people die as a

In Lebanon, Khalil said that preliminary reports note that more than
3.5 percent of the drug addicts in the country are students.

"An initial estimate points to around 25,000 addicts [being] young
people ... and an even greater danger is that more than 3.5 percent of
the drug addicts are students of public and private schools," Khalil

"In the absence of clear policy dealing with this matter, most of the
students [who use drugs once] fall into the swamp of drug use," Khalil

Dr. Sameen Siddiqi of the World Health Organization praised the
ministry's direct involvement in combating drug abuse and its role in
providing rehabilitation services to drug addicts.

"The greatest success occurred last year through coordination between
the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry during which experts
raised awareness on drug addiction and abuse among students of public
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