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Drug addiction rising in Egypt, officials say

March 28, 2013|By Ingy Hassieb

CAIRO -- The Egyptian government says it is taking steps to battle drug addiction, especially among young people, which has escalated amid deepening social and economic problems since the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

The young are “more easily influenced,” said Amr Othman, the director of the organization for treatment of addiction and abuse. “They easily get into drugs and are sometimes pressed into drug trafficking.”

A report by the National Council for Battling Addiction attributes increased substance abuse to the availability and affordability of street drugs, especially in “light of the security vacuum society is witnessing.” Officials said a lack of police presence has allowed dealers to push new drugs onto the market.

Othman said that Indian and Chinese-made Tramadol, a strong and highly addictive painkiller, is being sold cheaply on street corners in Cairo and other cities. Unlike the Egyptian-made variation, these pills contain a higher level of amphetamines, which can make them toxic.

The pills sell for as little as 2 Egyptian pounds, or 29 cents, according to Al Ahram newspaper. “Now more people are directly taking Tramadol, even children,” said Othman.

The report from national council revealed that in Cairo, children as young as 11 are using drugs and that use among people over 15 has jumped from 6.4% to 30%.

The managing director of the Health Ministry’s addiction unit, Dr. Tamer Amroushy, told the Egypt Independent last May that “without [a] consistent police force on the streets, dealers are more comfortable and daring, and so they now more openly linger around public areas and primary schools.”

The country’s security officials assert, however, that seizures of drugs increased since the January 2011 uprising. On Thursday, Egypt’s naval forces said they confiscated a shipment of nearly three3 tons of marijuana in the Suez Bay. From Jan. 1 to May 26, 2012, the Interior Ministry listed 10,295 cases of drug seizures.

The drug phenomenon has prompted the Egyptian Cabinet to sponsor a health and judicial plan that calls for cooperation from 14 government ministries. The plan included establishing a hotline for help with addiction as well as collaborating with several hospitals to set up rehabilitation programs.

In addition, the Education Ministry is expected to raise awareness in schools by introducing information on the dangers of drug use. But, with an ailing economy and mounting social frustrations, it is unlikely the problem will disappear in the near future.

“Drugs are usually a reflection of deeper problems, such as rising unemployment, bad economic conditions and social frustrations,” Othman said.

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