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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Alcoholism in Strict Islamic Countries

You would think that a country where there is a punishment for possessing, let alone using, alcohol would mean that there would be few social problems with alcohol.  There's nothing further from the truth: alcoholism and other addictions are on the rise throughout the Islamic world.

For example, Iran is struggling with a significant alcoholism problem: 

Most recently, alcohol tests taken from drivers in Tehran in the period of 20 April-20 May showed that 26% of them were drunk.

Wow, that's pretty high if you ask me.  There's a lot of drinking in a nation that has traditionally struggled with opiates, since Afghanistan is near by and opium poppies are cultivates in the area.  yet, there are few treatment services available, in large part because of the authorities.

Saudi Arabia also has a big problem.  Look at this study:

If you look closely at the story, married students, who are going to be older and more life-experienced than single students who (in this culture) still live at home with mom and dad, report a higher level of social problems related to drugs and alcohol.  This is confirmed by other sources, such as:

With the Saudi government actively pursuing treatment models, the medical establishment is basically copping to the problem.  

The difficulty throughout the Middle East is that the religious establishment is generally more likely to want to punish than to treat.  They are also relatively isolated from scientific information.  Here's an example of just how radically uninformed some of their leadership is:

Yes, that's right: one of the top religious figures in Saudi Arabia thinks that fuel-grade ethanol is the same stuff as bourbon.  It's pretty clear that these guys have no idea what they are talking about on a practical level, and so this does not bode well for establishing treatment centers that people will willingly walk into.  After all, the religious figures are probably not going to understand the 'disease model' or the loss of control in addiction, and won't slow down to investigate matters before rendering a verdict.  After all, this scholar made his pronouncement apparently without talking to anybody in the fuel industry... and he's in Saudi Arabia of all places!

I do hope that these nations will one day understand the disease concept of addiction and help their people break free from the misery of addiction.

What I think is important to keep in mind is that addiction can form even under repression and suppression of addictive substances.  The law can only be used in a limited way, and so nations that want to deal with the social costs of addiction need to have a multi-faceted approach.  The law is only effective in controlling behaviors surrounding addiction (theft, public drunkenness, dealing, transporting, etc.), but not the problem itself.  After all, prison does not cure criminals in most cases.

Treatment must be made available, otherwise the wily addict will find ways to get around the law.

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