Last Updated 25 May 2020

Alcohol and Drug Dependence problems in Saudi Arabia

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In changing Saudi society alcohol and drug usage has been on the rise, even though it is not publicly accepted. The present Saudi healthcare system is two decades old and is unable to cop with the problems arising due to alcohol and drug dependence.

The author through literature review has found out that alcohol and drug usage is giving rise to cancer, liver related diseases and mental illness on onside, while also creating tension, depression and stress breaking the peace and tranquility of the families. The researcher has proposed a qualitative study, which will conduct interview and observe the dependents. The study findings will be analysed to design interventions to stop further rise in the alarming issue.

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Alcoholic and drugs have been consumed from prehistoric times by people all around the world, as an essential component of daily diet. It has been used for various reasons ranging for medical reasons, relaxant or arousing euphoric effects, recreation, artistic inspiration etc. In some religions alcohol has been mixed with other drugs and has become part of religious importance.

One such example was the ritual of Dionysus in ancient Greece also known as God of wine or drinking. However the advancement in technology and rise in earnings have given rise to greater consumption in the modern era, which is leading new kind of diseases and social problems in the urban world

Alcohol is consumed in great amount world over. It usage has been remained stable and consistent in the last many decades in US, Australia, Sweden, Japan and Germany, where per head consumption ranges from 6.61 lit to 10.6 lit per head. While Ireland and Portugal remain the heaviest consumers of alcohol with 11.6 and 11 lit per head respectively as per 1999. In the past 30 years (1970 to 1999), the alcohol usage is falling in Italy, France and Spain, but in UK and Denmark alcohol consumption has grown as high as 52 percent and a rise of 39 percent.

The alcohol per captia consumption increased in 1980s, however it fell by 20 percent in later years. Similarly wine consumption exceeded 2 gallons in 1999, as a result since 1990, red wine sales has been increased by 124 percent.  According to beer institute, the beer consumption has grown by 1.8 percent in 2001, while in the next 5 years the number is predicted to reach 25 million. The study also mentioned that teenagers have been using lesser beer in 1999 compared to early years in US (Conibear, 2005)

According to UN World Drug report (2005) about 200 million people (5 percent) between the age of 15 and 64 have used drug in past one year. Even though drug consumption is lower the consumption of  (about 30 percent) of the total world population, but the general users of cannabis users are close to 160 million, in which about 8 million are using ecstasy. The number of opiate has risen to about 16 million world wide, while the numbers of cocaine users are close to 14 million. The global opium cultivation has increased by 16 percent in 2004.

Muslim countries ban alcohol and drug import and consumption. For example there is a strict penalty for the use of alcohol, however it is available at licensed hotel and bars in UAE. In Bahrain alcohol is permitted and is a causeway for Saudis who cannot get alcohol in their country.  Before revolution alcohol was allowed in Iran, but soon after revolution ban was put on the use of alcohol, which often has harsh penalties.

Saudi Arabia being an Islamic country bans production, import or consumption of alcohol. The government has imposed strict penalties on the use of alcohol, however a black-market of alcohol exists in Saudi Arabia like all other Muslim countries.

The reason for this kind of smuggling is that Saudi Arabia ban has led to increased pricing of alcohol and drugs. It is estimated that there about 150,000 thousand of different kind of spirits smuggled into the country, which result in a business of US$200 million, out of which only 30 percent is used by Expats, while the remaining 70 percent is used by Saudis (Cloven, 2004).

The statistics mention that in 2002, 17419 people died in alcohol related accidents, which is about 41 percent of all traffic accidents.  According to Strait time report (2003), Saudi police seized about one hundred thousand bottles with expired date, which led to the death of 20 people, and many others became blind due to harmful effect of the expired alcohol.

Alcohol and drug usage on one side is increasing the economic impact of the Saudi Arabia, on the other many workdays are lost burdening Saudi economy with unwanted leaves.  It is also increasing accidents; hear attack, family abuse and risky behaviour, all are issues, which are new in Saudi society.

Yet the biggest problem is the Saudi Primary Health Care System, which is still copping with traditional diseases and un- prepared to accept and rehabilitate alcohol and drug dependents. This study will look at alcohol and drug dependents and resulting diseases in Saudi Arabia and at the end of study propose to design intervention to cop with alcohol and drug dependents.

While the country has strict law against alcohol and drug trafficking, the Saudi youth at present is unemployed (30 %) find alcohols and drugs an easy way in the wake strict religious society. The number of alcohol and drugs users is growing, but government is not openly accepting that the problem exists, and also unable to cater for those who are alcoholic and drug dependents. The table below shows that there has been rise in alcohol consumption in Saudi Arabia among adults of fifteen and above age group.

Saudi Arabia is conservative society where alcohol and drugs both are forbidden, but this ban also presents an open invitation for drug smugglers to smuggle in drug and alcohol for lucrative sum of money. Even though there is no local production of drugs except few traditional plants leaves, which creates hallucinating effect, drug is normally smuggled from the surrounding countries. Among which coupled with alcohol, Heroin and hashish are the most heavily consumed substances.

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Nabil S. Al Helali,  Mostafa A. Abolfotouh,  Hussein  M. Ghanem.(2002). Pattern of erectile dysfunction in Jeddah city. Saudi Medical Journal; Vol. 23 (5): 616-618

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Alcohol and Drug Dependence problems in Saudi Arabia. (2016, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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