Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Comparison of Patterns of Substance Abuse in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Comparison of Patterns of Substance Abuse in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

Article excerpt

The aim of the present study was to compare the patterns of substance abuse in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One hundred and twenty substance abusers from the KSA and 79 substance abusers from the UAE participated. All participants were males. Age, education, age at onset of abuse, substances abused, duration of abuse, mode of abuse, and employment were investigated. Analysis of the data revealed some similarities including age, employment, and substances prevalent among poly-substance abusers. Differences in patterns of substance abuse included age at onset, prevalence of polysubstance abuse, and substances prevalent among single-substances abusers. The findings are discussed and compared with previous reports. Recommendations for future studies are made.

The present study is an attempt to compare the patterns of substance abuse in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Comparisons made are focused on revealing similarities and differences in the patterns of misuse in the two countries. The locations of both countries make them particularly vulnerable to drug smuggling. Both countries have long coasts on the Arabian Gulf and adjacent to the Indian Ocean. Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Iran, and Afghanistan, which are the most important growers and exporters of illegal drugs, lie just on the other side of either the Indian Ocean or the Arabian Gulf. The long coasts of both countries make them particularly vulnerable to smuggling of both immigrants and goods. Among the latter, and of particularly high commercial value, are illegal drugs. Added to this are the modern and efficient means of air and land transportation in both countries that enhance the smuggling of drugs and other illegal goods (Alkaidi, 1997).

Both countries experienced an unprecedented economic boom in the early 1970s as a result of the increase in the price of oil that followed the Arab- Israeli war. Individual incomes and standards of living rose drastically. Modernization processes, which would normally be expected to take decades, were accomplished in a few years. As a result, people had to adapt swiftly to new realities. It is suggested that the need for quick and successful adjustments that the new realities have introduced into the lives of many individuals in these two countries were more than some individuals could handle.

The two countries are also similar in many important ways: they share the same cultural background, the same racial origin, the same language, and the same religion. This being the case, it is suggested that patterns of substance misuse may be similar in the two countries.

Among the few studies reporting on drug abuse in the KSA, Elfawal, AlKhawajah and Kurashi (1991) studied 153 Saudi male substance-abusing patients admitted voluntarily to the hospital. They reported that the most commonly abused drugs were heroin and cannabis. Other substances, including tranquilizers, amphetamines, barbiturates, and cocaine, were also used but to a lesser degree. They also reported that 10% of their sample abused volatile substances and concluded that volatile substance abuse is not uncommon in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia. Osman (1992) studied a group of 485 substance abusers in the KSA, of whom only 2.7% were females. He reported that 43.5 % were heroin abusers, 16.1 % were alcohol abusers, 14.6% were polydrug abusers, 8.7% were benzodiazepine abusers, 8% were barbiturates abusers, and 5.2% were amphetamine abusers. The mean age of the whole sample was 29.04 years. AlUmran, Mahgoub and Qurashi (1993) reported a prevalence rate of volatile substance abuse of 5.3% in a representative sample of Saudi subjects of 1778 students, approximately half of whom had started abuse between 12 and 14 years of age. They reported that volatile substance abuse was significantly associated with family problems, truancy and smoking, but was associated with neither socioeconomic status, family structure nor scholastic achievement. …

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