BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Tuesday that to fight rising drug abuse among teenagers, the country needs a comprehensive policy that treats addicts as patients who need care, rather than criminals who need punishment.
Speaking at the launch of a national awareness campaign to combat drug abuse on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Mikati said that his government would continue to fight against drug abuse.
“We are all responsible for fighting this phenomenon, and the primary solution is to consider addicts as ill people who need medical care and rehabilitation, and not as criminals who simply need to be punished,” said Mikati, speaking at the Grand Serail.
At least 24,000 young Lebanese are drug addicts, according to a report by the Ministry of Health, and 3.5 percent of students aged 13 and 15 have used drugs at least once.
The United Nations General Assembly observes June 26 as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Drawing a contrast with other policies of his Cabinet, such as the policy of disassociation with the developments in the neighboring Syria, Mikati said that the issue of drug abuse cannot wait, and that everyone must work to spread awareness to fight the trend.
“If in politics we adopted the policy of disassociation to distance Lebanon from its surrounding dangers, in the issue of drug addiction, we all need to get involved in the campaigns to combat it through spreading awareness,” Mikati said.
“The damage caused [by drug abuse] is negatively affecting the stability and security of the country,” Mikati added.
Vowing that the government will do its part along with the efforts of civil society groups and individual initiatives, Mikati said that the police have been asked to strengthen the fight against crime, terrorism, drug abuse and trafficking during the security month.
For his part, Education Minister Hassan Diab warned of an increase in the percentage of young drug addicts in the country.
“That this phenomenon has entered the doors of our public and private schools worries officials at the ministry,” Diab said.
Diab added that a joint project by Lebanon and France is currently working on an awareness campaign against drug abuse that would target around 56,000 students in 250 public schools in the country.
But Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said that the country still lacks a national project to combat drug abuse and its trafficking.
“We see that NGOs are working on projects in a limited number of locations, which means that some areas are protected and other regions are being deprived,” Faour said.
“Lebanon cannot succeed in fighting this phenomenon unless NGOs and the government do their duties,” he added.
According to Faour, a national project to combat drug abuse and trafficking also requires policies that ensure the involvement of the youth in awareness campaigns at schools and universities, and parents to guide the youth at an early age against drug abuse.