While exact figures on substance abuse in this region vary, 14.33% of car crashes are caused by drunk driving in Dubai, and the use of substances like nicotine and alcohol in everyday life remains widely popular. It can become easy to get addicted in such an environment – and even harder to quit. Enter: Noura Alali, a psychologist with a graduate degree in applied behavioural analysis.
Not only does Noura work with the entire spectrum of relationships and specialise in relationship solutions, infidelity support, and self-love, but she has also worked with teens in Toronto. There, she helped students battle peer pressure, observing how substance abuse can be linked to peer pressure and the need for approval through rebellious actions. Addressing the grip of substance abuse, she reveals six things we all should know.
1. We need to start addressing substance abuse in this region.
“The problem is that addiction is seen as a taboo topic, especially considering the culture and the fact that the laws are quite strict. Abuse of drugs such as narcotics and alcohol receive a lot of judgement here. Although the community tries to portray the UAE as a drug-free place, usage still exists unfortunately. In terms of alcohol, serving it is seen as part of being a tourist attraction and, although that is okay, it does create a comfortable space for an alcohol problem to develop with limited resources to aid those in need.”
2. It starts from you, your past, and your circle.
“Some of the most common causes of addiction stem from peer pressure, dysfunctional homes, and unresolved trauma. Friends might influence you to act a particular way and engage in unhealthy habits, including indulging in harmful substances. Previous mental challenges that haven’t been addressed can also fester, while homes that have created a hostile environment can push people to look for a release, leading them to use alcohol, drugs, or smoking as an ‘escape’. The symptoms and side effects of substance abuse can manifest as anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm.”
3. You can break free from it.
“The first step in quitting should be to inform your family and friends of the issue, your environment, and the condition you are in. The second would be to seek help. Seeking help can mean going to rehab or reaching out to a psychologist who specialises in substance abuse. In fact, you can contact CDA directly on the phone line, where they can guide you with a list of great substance abuse therapists.
Some rehabilitation centres that you can consider include Ownak Social Rehabilitation Center and Erada Center. You should also try to change your environment and cut off friends who have the same habits. Another tip is to create a self-care routine. Do things that make you feel good, strong, and bring you to a place of peace – this could be salt baths, going on walks, music therapy, art, and really anything that works!”
4. A relapse isn’t the end of the world!
“Relapsing is quite common with addictions, and that’s why it’s always best to get an addiction recovery sponsor involved. They’re someone who can support you in moments of vulnerability, someone to call, and remind you to stay on track. It’s also important to find the trigger that throws you back into the relapse loop. This could be a person, a thought, or even a recurring memory. Finding a specialist or a rehabilitation centre that can help you stay clean is the best way to break free from addiction.”
5. If someone you know is struggling, you can help.
“One of the best ways to help someone who is an addict is by doing an intervention and making them seek professional help. You might get frustrated and angry when dealing with an addict as it is a heavy toll to take on, but offering support and a judgement-free zone is the best thing you can do. You can also create comfort kits to make them feel safe and cared for. It can be a great reminder of your positive role in helping them out.”
6. We need to do more to support addicts in this region.
“In this region, substance abuse is shut down and given harsh consequences to maintain a safe environment and deter people from becoming addicts. That being said, there will always be some cases that slip through the cracks. If we offer seminars on the issue and normalise and commercialise seeking help during moments of vulnerability, then people will likely be heard before they decide to try a substance out of desperation and possibly develop an addiction. In fact, it can function as a precaution.”