Social networking sites used to promote drugs, says Saudi official

Over the last year security officials documented over 35,000 drugs-related cases involving over 47,000 suspects

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Social media is playing a significant role in helping drug dealers introduce narcotics to students, a senior official at the Directorate to Combat Drugs told scholarship students.

Abdulilah Al-Sharif, assistant director general for preventive affairs, said the Kingdom was able to seize 57 million amphetamine tablets, 44 tons of hashish and 52 kilograms of heroin recently.

The official was addressing a lecture that was held as part of continuing cooperation between the Ministry of Higher Education and his department.

Over the last year security officials documented over 35,000 drugs-related cases involving over 47,000 suspects.

The directorate revealed last November the different methods smugglers use to bring drugs into the Kingdom.

The methods include filling different products, including wood, furniture, fruit, vegetables and wires, with narcotic pills and powders.

Al-Sharif explained social media plays a role in introducing drugs to young people.

Drug promoters tend to trap youths by showing only the glamorous sides of drug addiction, he said.

The official also gave two examples of youth who became drug addicts after going abroad.

The first case was a person who accompanied a student to the U.S. and because of his abundance of free time he became addicted to alcohol before moving onto narcotics.

The second case was a student who was also in a western country and did not complete his education after developing a drug addiction that required rehabilitation at Al-Amal Rehabilitation Center.

Al-Sharif referred to a report issued by the International Narcotics Control Board that stated Canada was one of the top countries producing stimulant substances.

The same report, he explained, stated that the U.S. have over 5 million people addicted to cocaine and 25 million addicted to cannabis.

He advised students to stay away from falling into the trap of drug addiction.

There are 22 offices in Arab and foreign countries that work with Saudi authorities to tackle drug-related offenses.

The majority of drug addicts are aged 13 to 30, said Al-Sharif.

The average number of cases that arrive at Al-Amal centers are 600 a week.

Women addicts, however, are low compared to men, he said.

The latest study by the directorate revealed there were only 300 documented cases involving women last year, half of which were not Saudi. Women tend to be addicted to alcohol, hashish and other narcotics, said the report.

The anti-drug department has allocated a cash reward for any person who has information about drug-related offenses.

The reward matches half the financial value of the confiscated drugs, while the other half goes to the security team that arrests the drug dealers responsible. The reward is distributed a maximum of three months after the directorate receives the information.

(This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on Feb. 3, 2014)