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UAE to build region's largest institute to train anti-addiction professionals

The UAE is planning to build the largest institution in the region for training psychiatrists and mental health and anti-addiction professionals.

Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, director-general of the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), said on Tuesday that all the necessary arrangements for setting up the training institution have been completed and construction of the education project would soon begin in Abu Dhabi.

The collaborative institute will offer training courses for professionals including psychiatrists, primary care physicians, social workers and nurses and other mental health practitioners.

The anti-addiction training institute, which will attract people from across the region, will be accrediting students for the International Society of Addiction Medicines (ISAM) certificate.

"Our major aim is to build an education institute within the NRC so that we produce professionals who can support addicts and people with mental problems and also transfer the knowledge to others," Al Ghaferi told Khaleej Times on the sideline of the workshop on "Consultation to Finalise the Regional Framework for Strengthening the Public Response to Substance Use Problem".

"An adequate response to the growing problem of substance misuse requires a skilled and competent workforce in the areas of prevention, treatment, teaching and research." He noted that the UAE through the NRC is taking on workforce capacity building as one of its priorities.

"Driven by its own needs, the UAE is undertaking an education and training agenda to serve the UAE and the region by developing this training institute, which will be the largest in the region," said Al Ghaferi.

"The education institute will be on international standard and is intended to serve our mandates of providing continued education programmes for psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurses and towards building up new specialties in the field of mental health workers."

The official said the NRC also have many people working with them in taking care of addicts and people with mental problems, but they are not certified professionals or experts. He said all these people will have the chance of getting training at the institution so they can get internationally accredited certificates. Commenting on the rise of substance use among young people worldwide, Alex Baldacchino, professor of medicine, psychiatry and addictions at University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said actions and interventions in the fight against substance abuse haven't been so effective because of a lack of clarity on what people should be doing in teaching and supporting individuals with addiction problems.

"We all know that substance use in predominantly among the young population. But what we don't have on a regional or global perspective is the right evidence and instructions to measure whether what we are doing is making any difference, and this is a stumbling block," said Baldacchino.

He noted that research show that tramadol is the common drug used by people in the UAE while the young generation use a cocktail of drugs.

And on the reasons why some addicts get back to drugs after being treated at rehabs, Baldacchino sited things like returning back to the environment that doesn't allow them to quit drugs, the lack of knowledge to cope up with new and normal life after leaving the rehab and the stress factor.

Dr Gilberto Gerra, chief of prevention and health branch division for operations at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said: "Drug addiction among young people is a big problem all over the world.

"More is needed to educate young people about the negative effects of drugs, including the fact that it kills and destroys people's lives. People need to be taught about the different drugs and their effects so they avoid drug abuse."