An increasing number of women in Oman are falling prey to drugs, according to an expert from Ibn Sina Hospital, which has the country's only de-addiction facility.
Evidence based on patient visits to the facility shows that three to four new women addicts have sought medical attention here every month this year till September. Based on this, an unofficial projection for this year alone throws up a much higher number compared to the 31 women drug patients the Ministry of Health (MoH) has registered over six years from 2006 to 2011.
Acknowledging the trend, Dr Amira bint Abdul Mohsin al Raaidan, a psychiatrist at Ibn Sina Hospital, told Muscat Daily, “There has been a sharp increase in the number of women drug addicts the hospital receives. Not all are registered as patients and 30 to 40 per cent do not come back for follow-up treatment.”
The MoH data for 2006-11, which was provided by Dr Amira, also shows that all the 31 women addicts were in the 16-25 years age bracket and some were drug dealers themselves. The period recorded a total of 1,521 drug abuse cases.
According to Dr Amira, who is also the chairperson of Al Hayat Association, the only NGO working on drug awareness in Oman, and a member of the National Committee for Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, most of the women patients are either addicted to morphine or heroin.
She attributed the cause of addition to influence from peer groups, coercion, failed relationships, easy access to drugs and excess money. Many cases end in relapse due to lack of facilities.
“Some people in Oman are so rich that they don't know what to do with the excess money, and try drugs. I have had patients who are well educated, holding high posts and from good family
backgrounds. Some are drug dealers themselves.”
According to her, half a gramme of morphine costs RO10 while the same quantity of heroin costs RO50. “All the women patients I have handled use injections as the mode, for an instant high. Many of them also end up as HIV positive and Hepatitis C patients.”
Addiction can happen at any age, said Dr Amira. “For instance, an 18 year old girl dealt in drugs and confessed that she can't give up the habit. There was a case where a man forced his wife into taking drugs and later, they both turned into dealers.” She said that it has taken authorities some time to address the problem and added that people appear to be embarrassed to seek medical help in a conservative society such as that of Oman.
Rehabilitation facilities at the Ibn Sina hospital, too are limited, Dr Amira said. “It has just five beds for detoxification. I have more than 100 patients waiting to be treated. We take in patients, detoxify them and prescribe them a course of almost a month.” However, many of them go back to drugs, she said.
“I blame this on the lack of facilities. Oman had always been a timid nation and we did not regard this as an issue until now. It's a wake-up call for us.”
THE WARNING SIGNS
According to MoH figures, the period from 2006-11 registered 1,945 cases of alcohol and drug abuse (men and women) of which 1,521 were drug-related. The 1,945 cases included 1,155 singles, 692 married patients, 83 divorcees and five widows.
The most common mode of abuse was injections (1,009). The highest number of addicts (men and women) were registered in Muscat (1,149) followed by North Batinah (316).
Addicts can be identified from changes in behaviour and physical appearance. They may suffer weight loss, display violent behaviour, and have erratic sleeping patterns.