Maldives: First-ever National Drug Use Survey highlights urgent need for more drug use prevention and treatment
Drug use has been plaguing Maldives for several years now. Every third family was said to have been affected by drug use and a considerable number of young Maldivians have died from drug use. While it was known that drug use had reached serious levels in the country, there was no concrete data available to assess the total number of drug users and the subsequent need for services.
On 18 February 2013, the first-ever 'National Drug Use Survey for Maldives' was released in Male. During the occasion, the President of the Maldives, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik highlighted the importance of such a survey in view of the alarmingly high number of drug users and the large number of school children using drugs at an early age.
The survey found that the current drug use prevalence in Male and the Atolls is 6.64 percent and 2.02 percent respectively. The majority of drug users are youth in the age between 15 and 24 years. The survey shows that alcohol, cannabis and opioids are the most popular drugs used. Around 200 drug users in Male and 300 in the Atolls were found to be injecting drug users who are vulnerable to the spread of blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
The survey also studied community knowledge and attitude towards the drug problem. In this regard, in general, communities feel that drug use is an increasing problem, but at the same time they do not easily understand nor treat drug addiction as a medical condition. Also, many people feel that treatment of drug addiction has not been effective.
Based on its findings, the report also identified a number of measures that need to be taken to address the drug situation in Maldives comprehensively, including
(i) The reduction of supply of illicit drugs by strengthening law enforcement.
(ii) Increased awareness activities in schools, colleges and within communities to prevent youth from taking drugs and educating them on their harmful effects.
(iii) Encouragement of drug users to access treatment services that are available.
(iv) Development of an information management system to collect, analyze and share data on drug use.
(v) Mainstreaming drug use issues in programs of other sectors like public health (mental health, HIV), children and youth, education, human resources etc.
The National Drug Use Survey was carried out as part of the UNODC-supported project "Strengthening the National Response to Combat Drug Use in the Maldives" a joint project with the Government of Maldives. The project is funded by the European Union (EU) and the Government of Sweden.
Media coverage of the launch: