Abu Dhabi: Monitoring at all the UAE’s border check posts should be beefed up further to prevent drugs from being smuggled into the country, a senior official said.

Stronger measures are needed to halt drugs from getting into the hands of the country’s youth, said, Major General Mohammad Khalfan Al Romaithi, Commander-in-Chief of the Abu Dhabi Police. He was speaking at discussion — titled ‘Towards a drug-free environment’ — organised on Thursday by the Abu Dhabi Police Youth Council, at the Abu Dhabi University, to address drug addiction issues among the youngsters.

The Abu Dhabi Police discussed collaboration of institutions and families to rid society of the scourge of drugs. About 450 students participated.

The discussion was a part of ‘My Life is Priceless’, an ongoing awareness campaign to combat drug abuse.

“These drugs reach the country through three sources: air, land and sea. We have to ensure that these don’t enter the country via these ports. Firm regulations are already in place to prevent them from entering the country and there shouldn’t be a negligence by any parties — at these border posts or elsewhere — to protect our youngsters,” he said.

“The continued awareness drives are fine but we have to stop these huge quantities of drugs from entering the country in the first place,” Major General Al Romaithi said.

For instance, he said, one and a half years ago, a container with 20 million captagon capsules reached Kuwait.

“This is organised crime and is spread widely across in the region. Our society and youth in particular are targeted. We have to protect them,” he said, stressing that educational institutions have to play a key role in informing pupils about the harmful effects of drug use on their health, life and on society.

Schools should make it a point to keep students engaged in extra-curricular activities like music, art, sport and creative play. There should a balance between mainstream education, physical activities and extra-curricular learning, he noted.

Speaking to the media after the discussion, Dr Ali Al Marzouqi, director of Public Health and Research at the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in Abu Dhabi, said: “Since the opening of the centre in 2002, we have received 3,500 patients who were drug users. Each year, we get 700 to 800 new patients at the centre,” he said. He said that more than 700 drug abusers are admitted to rehabilitation centres in the emirate each year for treatment

Lt Col Mohammad Saeed Al Mansouri, Deputy Director of Awareness Department, Directorate of Drug Control in the Criminal Security Sector, said about 200,000 people died of drug abuse worldwide in 2014. Around 230 million people also took drugs for the first time in the same year.

Hatem Ali, regional director of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said that the media played an essential role in spreading awareness among the community.