Dubai: Drug mortality rates in the UAE have declined for the first time in 10 years.

A high-ranking official said the fall was largely due to the joint efforts of authorities under the Federal Anti-Narcotic Council which was set up in 2016.

Brigadier Saeed Abdullah Al Suwaidi, director of the Federal Anti-Narcotic Department and vice-president of the council, said drug related deaths which had been on the rise for a decade fell by 10 per cent in 2017. “Last year the drop was 27 per cent. Our efforts are beginning to bear fruit as we have not only smashed regional drug networks but also rehabilitated addicts,” Al Suwaidi said on the sideline a campaign called Your Safety is Your Happiness aimed at creating awareness about the dangers of substance abuse.

Lt General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, deputy chairman of police and public security in Dubai and the council president, said there has been 49 per cent increase in the seizure of drugs since 2014 and 2015.

“The council helped unify efforts between various departments at no extra cost. Our focus was to fill legal gaps and create awareness among parents,” he said.

Lt Gen Tamim said dealers offer drugs for free to youngsters aged between 11 and 18 years in order to make them addicts.

“This is a critical age and parents should monitor their children all the time.”

First-time offenders

Changes to the Anti-Narcotics Law from 1995 issued by the UAE president in 2016, downgraded the use of illegal drugs to a misdemeanour. The law provided more options other than jail for first-time offenders, including rehabilitation, a Dh10,000 fine or community service.