Oman’s health minister says by the end of 2011, 3,651 drug addicts had been treated. Image Credit: Oman News Agency

Muscat: Alarmed by the increase in drug abuse in the country, Oman has decided to set up drug rehabilitation centres in every governorate.

Dr Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Saeedi, the Minister of Health, told Majlis Ashura members that the need for a drug rehabilitation centre in every one of Oman’s 11 governorates was felt due to the increasing numbers of addicts in the country.

On the first day of his appearance before the 84-member Shura council on Sunday, the Minister said that by the end of 2011, 3,651 drug addicts had been treated at Ibn Sina Hospital, currently the only hospital in the country which has a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts.

The statistics for 2012 have still not been made public but according to sources this number has gone up quite a bit.

Dr Al Saeedi admitted that the success rate for treating drug addicts was only 20 per cent.

According to a ministry doctor the complete World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines needs to be followed in Oman to fight the scourge of drug addiction.

Under the WHO guidelines drug addicts should be put through Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT), which can help addicts reduce or stop injecting and return to productive lives.

According to sources there’s a fear of giving MMC to addicts in Oman and a lot depends on counselling and moral ethics.

A government hospital doctor, on condition of anonymity, also pointed out that the rising drug menace was also spreading communicable diseases like hepatitis B and C as well as HIV in the country.

The health authorities are reluctant to dispense syringes recommended in the WHO treatment guidelines for fear of encouraging addicts. “Syringe dispensation is an international practice to avoid spread of communicable diseases,” the doctor revealed.

Oman’s new Al Masarra Psychiatric Hospital in the Amerat district is expected to be opened sometime this year. The 245-bed hospital which cost 44.55 million riyals (Dh425 million) will replace the Ibn Sina Hospital, which has 50 beds for drug addicts. Meanwhile, Dr Al Saeedi told Shura members that the government will open the National Centre for Diabetes Diseases and Endocrinology and the National Centre for Hereditary Health. The Ministry will also open the Heart Centre, the Diabetic Centre and the Haemodialysis Unit in Dhofar Governorate.

The Health Minister said that the eighth Five Year Plan for Health Development (2011-2015) includes the construction of seven hospitals, five health complexes and 27 health centres.