Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi Arabia Continues its War on Drugs | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat-Last week, Saudi Arabia joined other countries around the world to commemorate the annual Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, at a time when drugs affect all societies whether directly or indirectly. The cost of fighting the spread of drugs, raising awareness of the dangers involved, and curing those addicted has risen to 120 billion $ US, annually. A report commissioned by the UN for the occasion revealed that the drug trade represents 8% of the global trade. It also indicated that the amount of drugs seized is insignificant; only a tenth of the global amount of heroin and a third of the cocaine produced is confiscated.

Lieutanant Mohammed Fathi Eid, the Director if the Saudi Anti Drug Authority, noted in a study on the raw material for drugs, that, in 1994, poppy fields (used to make heroin) occupied 272 thousand hectares worldwide, of which 71 thousand were inside Afghanistan. The figure was reduced almost by half in 2001, but rose again the following year to reach 180 thousand hectares, with 74thousand in Afghanistan . According to some figures, 163 million people smoke cannabis worldwide.

As for cocaine, Colombia grows 59% of the world’s cocoa plants, followed by Peru with 27%, and Bolivia , with 14%. Colombia produces almost three quarters of the world’s cocaine, Peru 20%, and Bolivia a mere 8%. A total of 369 tons of cocaine is confiscated annually. It is thought that around 50million people use the drug and its affiliates. Thousands of others profit from its trafficking and sale. The drug trade overlaps with other forms of organized crime such as prostitution, money laundering, kidnapping, and affects more than 170 countries. In Central, South, and North America , the drug trade is built around cocaine, in Central Asia , on heroin, and in Europe and the rest of Asia , on cannabis and ecstasy pills.

There is a dearth of information regarding drug trafficking across the Arab World, since many countries do not publicize their statistics on the number of drug addicts or efforts to combat the spread of narcotics. More than 180 million people worldwide are addicted to some kind of drug. About 40 million living in the Horn of African region ( Somalia , Eritrea , Ethiopia , Kenya , and Yemen ) consume Qat on a regularly basis by slowly chewing the plant.

For its part, Saudi Arabia has been active in efforts to combat addiction and the drug trade for over a decade. The authorities inside the Kingdom cooperate with several other countries and international bodies to stop smuggling and devise appropriate mechanisms to confront the growing epidemic.

Riyadh believes drugs enjoy limited popularity with its citizens because of their religious beliefs and the death sentence meted out to those caught selling illegal narcotics. In addition, the Saudi government is keen on providing adequate treatment for addicts and post treatment follow ups to encourage their reintegration into mainstream society.

In effect, Saudi Arabia has largely succeeded in its efforts to eliminate the danger that drugs represent. It continues to work with other countries to thwart smuggling. At the Arab level, the Kingdom is active in Arab League meetings to combat narcotics. It has also ratified the anti- drug law issued by the Arab Council of Interior Ministers and signed bilateral agreements with its neighbors. Finally, the government is a major contributor to the UN Fund to combat terrorism.