Pubdate: Sat, 25 Jun 2011 Source: Daily Star, The (Lebanon) Copyright: 2011 The Daily Star Contact: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/547 ACTION URGENTLY NEEDED ON DRUG ADDICTION: HEALTH MINISTER 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 Khalil. 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 result. 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 said. "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 added. 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 schools." - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.