JEDDAH: FADIA JIFFRY
Published — Friday 11 January 2013
Last update 11 January 2013 1:26 am
As students prepare for their ongoing examinations, several medical specialists have voiced their concern over the increasing number of students relying on stimulants or narcotic pills to boost their intellectual skills.
Medical specialists in several regions of the Kingdom have warned students against the use of these stimulants sold by peddlers who convince students of improvements in mental and physical functioning.
According to a recent report in Arabic daily Al-Sharq, statistics quoted by Rashid Al-Zahrani, head of public relations at the Hope Institute in Dammam, show that 1,651 Saudis and 106 non-Saudis are currently being treated for addiction to drugs.
“The largest age group, around 37 percent of them, is between 20 and 29, while those who are younger than 20 constitute 2 percent of the total,” Al-Zahrani was quoted in the report as saying.
Medical specialists warn students against the destructive habit, advising them that drugs are part of the problem and not the solution.
The most commonly used narcotic drug is fenethylline, marketed under the brand name Captagon, which helps fight fatigue.
Peddlers sell counterfeit versions of Captagon, since the drug was declared illegal in the Kingdom and other Gulf countries 20 years ago. Counterfeit versions of the drug are known to contain mostly other amphetamine derivatives that are easier to produce.
“The abuse of the stimulant drugs among students during the exams has increased hugely over the last 10 years,” says Dr. Khalid K. Al-Oufi, consultant psychiatrist and medical director at Al-Amal Hospital. “The underlying concept of the continuous use is a wrong belief that stimulants like amphetamines (Captagons) increase overall energy and concentration.”
Al-Oufi says that most students are being fooled with the initial and temporary stimulating effect of these drugs.
“Although they can initially increase the sense of alertness, euphoria and concentration, their initial effect is commonly associated with a following irritability, dysphoric mood, difficulty in recalling, disturbed sleep and appetite, as well as tolerance, i.e., a need for markedly increased amounts of the stimulant to achieve the previously desired effect.”
He adds that Al-Amal Hospital used to receive a lot of amphetamine addicts either in outpatient or in inpatient departments.
“We can say that about 75 percent of our patients abuse amphetamines, as we receive monthly around 1,300 outpatients and 150 inpatients.
“The approach of treatment is usually holistic in a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual approach,” says Al-Oufi.
Apart from being commonly used among students before examinations in hopes of enhanced performance, the drug is also normally used by workers employed in tiring jobs, such as truck drivers.
Al-Oufi advises all students to avoid using any stimulating drug during exams or in any period of their lives, and not to be deceived by their false effect, saying that students just need to organize the schedules of study and concentrate well according to their natural abilities.
“Parents should also be aware of any change in the behavior of their children, especially in the change of appetite and sleep pattern. They can then consult medical professionals like psychiatrists to provide them with the appropriate advice,” says Al-Oufi.
A report carried by the Saudi Press Agency on Wednesday said a Syrian national was executed on Tuesday for trafficking a large amount of narcotic pills into the Kingdom.
“Anything that can boost energy is a good idea, but at the same time it has side effects and can hurt the body and the mind,” says Dr. Khalid Bahaziq, family consultant and psychologist. “Taking Captagon keeps a student up for long hours, so they can prepare for exams. The side effect here is that it over awakens the mind. Students need to balance time between study and rest. There are alternatives that students are advised to follow in order to prepare thoroughly for exams.”
Bahaziq says that the final result only depends on how students are taught. “We should make students comprehend and not test them. Testing has become a phobia. The issue of teaching is to give students the right knowledge and not burden them with tests.
“Children need to be taught and to be aware of their health at a very young age. Captagon is freely available around the world, although banned in the Kingdom, and accessible for students despite their ages. Drug dealers are making money. Millions of tablets are seized every year after being smuggled illegally into the country. I’m afraid that it may one day reach the elementary students.”
According to Bahaziq, it all lies in the hands of the parents. “They need to raise their children in a way that makes them aware of what they should approach and what they should stay away from. They need to be taught that they have to pay a price for whatever they wish to have in this world.”
A regional report released by the Council of the European Union in November last year states that Saudi Arabia is the main country of destination for Captagon tablets and is accounted for approximately 30 percent of all global amphetamine seizures and for 80 percent of the total weight seized in the region.
The report further says that the General Directorate for Narcotic Control has initiated awareness campaigns in collaboration with other ministries, such as the Ministry of Education, paying close attention to youth.