Poll shows rising drug use, mental health fears

Arab youth report an increase in the use of illegal drugs in the region and are concerned about mental health. (Shutterstock)
Updated 01 May 2019

Poll shows rising drug use, mental health fears

  • Young Arabs thought that stricter laws and more enforcement would help to stop the spread of drugs, with smaller numbers opting for awareness and counseling

DUBAI: Two new features in the Arab Youth Survey this year will give regional policymakers food for thought: The increasing use of illegal drugs in the region, and concerns about mental health and how it is treated in the Arab world.
Despite the universal criminal status of illegal drugs and strong penalties for their use in almost all of the countries polled, many young Arabs reported that drug use was on the rise, and drugs were easy to obtain in their countries.
A total of 57 percent of respondents said that more drugs were being used and that they were easy to get hold of. Even in the GCC, where most said that drugs were hard to obtain, only 30 percent said that drug use was in decline.
More than three-quarters of those polled in the Levant (76 percent) said drug use was on the rise, as well as 59 percent in North Africa. 
Encouragement by friends at school and work, stress and boredom were cited as the top three reasons for the increase.
Young Arabs thought that stricter laws and more enforcement would help to stop the spread of drugs, with smaller numbers opting for awareness and counseling.
While the poll results on mental illness were less clear-cut, there was still widespread concern among young people about its incidence in their societies. Half of those polled said there was a stigma attached to mental health issues.
Only 31 percent said they knew of someone facing mental health issues, spread evenly across the three sub-regions. But 54 percent said that qualified medical care was difficult to access in their countries. In the strife-torn Levant, 81 percent said it was difficult to get proper care.
What causes the stress many young people suffer differed across the region. In the GCC, personal relationships were cited as the biggest source of stress, followed closely by academic factors.
In the Levant, however, respondents cited lack of national safety and security as the major cause
of stress.


Saudi Embassy evacuates 300 tourists from Lebanon

Updated 59 min 26 sec ago

Saudi Embassy evacuates 300 tourists from Lebanon

  • The embassy said that evacuees were escorted to Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut by Lebanese security forces to guarantee their safety
  • Three Saudia aircraft were used to transport them

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia's embassy in Lebanon has confirmed it has facilitated the “evacuation of Saudi residents and visitors” from the country.
“The evacuation operation, imposed by the security situation in Lebanon and the importance of ensuring the safety of Saudi nationals, started Saturday at 5 a.m. after the Kingdom secured three Saudia aircraft to transport them,” the embassy told Arab News.
“Three hundred people were evacuated as of Saturday afternoon, while the total number of those wishing to leave remains unclear. We have identified a hotel in Beirut as a starting point,” it added, noting that most of those who had left were tourists.
The embassy also confirmed evacuees were escorted to Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut by Lebanese security forces to guarantee their safety.
Protests broke out in Lebanon on Thursday night, and disorder has disrupted roads leading to the airport, with burning tires blocking several key routes.
On Friday, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged its citizens already in Lebanon to exercise “utmost caution.”
Egypt’s Embassy in Beirut also called on its nationals in the country to avoid protest areas, Egyptian state news agency MENA said.
“The embassy calls on all Egyptian citizens in Lebanon to avoid the areas of gatherings and protests, to be careful in their movements and to abide by the instructions of the Lebanese authorities in this regard,” MENA reported.
Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Embassy in Lebanon asked citizens wishing to travel to the country to delay trips where possible.
“The embassy also calls on citizens currently in Lebanon to take utmost care and stay away from crowds and demonstrations,” it said on social media site Twitter.
Bahrain and the UAE warned against travel to Lebanon and called on their citizens in the country to leave immediately.