Muscat: Thousands of drug addicts are now being treated in Oman as the numbers rise year on year and the age of those affected, particularly by heroin and morphine, falls.
As the number of registered drug addicts in the Sultanate surpasses 4,000, the public and private sectors have joined hands to raise awareness about the harmful effects of drugs and help rehabilitate addicts through the establishment of drug rehabilitation centres across the country.
Dr Mahmoud Zaher Al Abri, secretary of the National Commission on Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Affairs, said the number of addicts centrally registered by 2014 is 4,079. However, the actual figure could be higher.
First specialised centre
In response to calls from the community for more projects aimed at tackling the scourge of drugs, which experts say is now getting a grip on the younger generation, the Sultanate's first specialised drug rehabilitation centre is going to be built in Sohar, open to nationals and expats, and a second drug rehabilitation centre would be established in Muscat.
Addiction on the rise
Speaking to Times of Oman, Al Abri said that the average age of users is currently 25 but warned it is coming down. "The main substances the use of which leads to hospital admission are heroin and morphine," he added.
Also, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the establishment of the first centre was signed between the Ministry of Health and Jusoor, a non-profit social responsibility organisation, during a function in Sohar, the provincial centre of the North Al Batinah Governorate, on Thursday. The centre would have 40 beds and would be spread over about 40,000 square metres. Construction cost amounts to OMR1.6 million.
And an agreement to build a drug rehabilitation centre in Al Amerat, Muscat, is going to be signed between the Ministry of Health and Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) in the coming days, according to Al Abri. The initial cost of the project is OMR2.5 million. The centre would have about 100 beds and is expected to be complete by 2017, Al Abri said.
Ali bin Saleh Al Hashar, chief executive officer of Jusoor, called the project in Sohar "vital" given that thousands of people in Oman are struggling with drug addiction. Al Hashar said that the project is being implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and a number of other government bodies, such as the Ministry of Social Development and the Sohar Municipality.
He said the centre would include a medical clinic, four rehabilitation units with a total capacity of 40 beds, a multi-purpose hall with a playground for interior sports and training workshops, meeting halls, prayer rooms, computer halls, a building for security, a building for administration, external green spaces and external sports courts.
"Medical centres have been offering drug rehabilitation services, but this is the first specialised drug rehabilitation in the country," Al Hashar said. The centre will be operated by the Ministry of Health.
Asked why Sohar was chosen as the place to build the rehabilitation centre, he said that statistics show that the majority of people suffering from drug addiction are in Al Batinah, especially North Al Batinah.
"Besides, the founding companies of Jusoor – Orpic, Sohar Aluminium and Vale – are based in Sohar so they chose the nearest community," Al Hashar said.
And the Sohar Municipality's help with land acquisition encouraged Jusoor to build the centre in this city, he added. Al Hashar said that the facility is going to be built close to Sohar Hospital and the Sohar medical college. He added that consultancy tendering would be complete by the end of this year and then construction is expected to start by mid-2015.
"It will take 18 months to two years for the project to complete after the construction starts," he said.
According to the secretary of the National Commission on Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Affairs, the centre's services will be free of cost for nationals. It would be open to expatriates as well, but they would be charged if they are working at the private sector as is the case with other healthcare services that they receive in the country, Al Abri said.
Asked about the centre cadre, he noted that both Omani and foreign specialists will be employed at the specialised drug rehabilitation centre and training courses would be held for Omanis.
To get in touch with the reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org