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A bottle of prescription pills. For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: Dubai Police fear a rise in mental health problems brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and are warning the public about the risks of anti-depressants.

Colonel Khalid Bin Moyazeh, deputy director of the Anti-Narcotic Department, said irresponsible use of anxiety or sleeping pills may lead to addiction.

Colenel Khalid Bin Moyazeh

“People should be reasonable when consuming depression and anxiety medication and get a prescription from doctors,” he said. “It can cause addiction if consumed over a long period of time or it could lead to an overdose,” he added.

Addiction, he said, could dramatically change people’s lives as they continually find excuses to take the medication.

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent fears of job loss or boredom and loneliness during movement restrictions have only intensified the matter.

“People list reasons to consume those drugs from lack of sleep, to worries and anxiety, they want to escape the noise of children while at home or want to focus on studies during e-learning. But people should be more aware on how to stay safe,” he added.

Police also said parents should be aware that the pandemic could also be stressful for children, as fears and anxieties about the virus could be overwhelming and prompt strong emotions.

Several international studies have shown an increase in stress levels during times of coronavirus and feelings have ranged from helplessness to fear and anger.

“All aspects of life are affected by the pandemic,” said Brigadier Eid Mohammad Hareb, director of the Anti-Narcotic Department at Dubai Police, speaking at a forum on online addiction in April.

Brigadier Eid Mohammad Hareb

“Despite the fact that humanity is suffering, we shouldn’t be overwhelmed with panic and fear as the UAE is doing an exceptional effort to contain the virus. Staying home need people to be positive and stay away from drug addiction,” he added.

Colonel Abdullah Matar Al Khayat, manager of Hemaya International Centre at Dubai Police, said that another worrying part of staying home is online addiction.

Colonel Abdullah Matar Al Khayat

“Most people spend their times checking their smart phones for latest news, communicating with others, watching movies or playing games,” he said. “Families are buried in their virtual world and don’t have a fruitful dialogue with their family members,” he added.

He urged parents to take responsibility by speaking more with their children and encouraging them to practice sport or reading to help them stay away from social media platforms.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already acknowledged that the outbreak is causing the public increased levels of anxiety.

In recently published guidance, the health body advised people who were feeling stressed to avoid excessively reading, watching and listening to the news.

Symptoms of addiction

Lieutenant Ahmad Al Kaabi, from Dubai Police, said that drug addiction can be recognised on a person when they keep the medication close to them at all times.

“Family members can notice symptoms of addiction if the person keeps consuming drugs without necessity,” he said. “Feelings of nervousness, pain or anger, always want to be alone, lack of sleep and ignoring personal hygiene and social duties, while buying large quantities of medication, are among the signs,” he added.