Dubai inmates get a new lease on life after drugs

5 Jan 2013

Dubai: They are behind bars for substance abuse, at least for now. But these Emiratis said they have finally been freed from drug addiction, which has mercilessly imprisoned them for most of their lives.

A.B., a 46-year-old Emirati, used to live a full life as a children’s books writer until prohibited drugs came into the picture at age 26. He lived, loved, became high, and plummeted to depression, yo-yoing in a cycle of addiction spanning two decades of his adult life.

“I was dead before. I had no friends,” he told Gulf News during a visit at the local prison as part of ‘Dose of Hope” programme of the Community Development Authority (CDA) in Dubai. “I have spent half of my life in jail because of drugs.”

A.B. is into his sixth month of another four-year prison term for substance abuse. His first wife divorced him for his drug addiction while he barely knew his first son, who is now 26 years old.

“I will be out of here without finishing four years, I’m sure,” he said, confident of his recently learned technique to control his urge to abuse his body once more.

A.B. is just one of the 25 Emirati participants who have decided to turn their lives around through the recently launched ‘Dose of Hope’ programme of the Community Development Authority (CDA). The rehabilitative programme, which is in its test phase, focuses on former drug-dependent inmates to help them learn life, psychological, and social skills needed to help to shun drugs completely once outside.

“They teach us new ways to live. And because of the programme, I was able to write some targets for my family. I learned how to plan for my life,” he said, especially now that he has a six-month-old child with his second wife.

The programme, divided into six weeks, utilizes various methods to instil self-confidence and self-control among participants. A key component is the SMART technique that teaches participants specific breathing exercises that lead to relaxation.

Dr. Hussain Ali Maseeh, a social care expert at CDA who oversees the programme, told Gulf News that he has seen positive results from the inmates in just a short period of time.

“Based on the preliminary results, many of them have decided not to take anymore psychiatric medicine, which also tends to be abused. Many of them have even quit smoking,” Dr Maseeh said.

H.A., who is serving a jail term of more than seven years, is one of them. He used to be addicted to prescriptive drugs for anger management and then eventually turned to prohibited drugs.

“During the first week we didn’t take it seriously. But we’re now on our fourth week and I can tell you that I have quit smoking and I have stopped taking my pills because of it,” H.A. said. “I have learned to listen to other people and not just to focus on what I think.”

Besides quitting their “addictions,” many inmates have become more active physically which is a good sign according to Dr Maseeh.

“Before when they’re on psychiatric medicines, they’d be asleep during the day. But now their activity level has increased, they interact more with others. They’re now busier during the day and they are more pre-occupied with learning new skills,” Dr Maseeh said.

With Dose of Hope’s Help, both A.B. and H.A. said they have made a new commitment to live a reformed life from here onwards.

“My dream is to finish my sentence and have a normal life. I want to go back to work and get ready to see life from a different window,” H.A. said.

“My first target is to build a villa of my own for my family in Abu Dhabi. Next is to find a job and go back to writing,” A.B. said.

“My family is the main thing in my life and their happiness is my responsibility. For me, this is my second kid, my second wife, and my second life.”