Saudi Drug Testing Program Deemed a Failure | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

Saudi Drug Testing Program Deemed a Failure

The failure of the Kingdom's drug testing policy underscores the country's growing and often ignored substance abuse problem.



By Paul Gaita


| Share

A mandatory premarital test for drug addiction in Saudi Arabia has been deemed a failure by the country’s health ministry.

Established in 2004 after reports of widespread drug use among young Saudis, the test screened more that 2.5 million people, but only diagnosed 270 to 300 cases per year. That number stands in stark contrast to the more than 200,000 individuals deemed to be drug addicts by a recent survey, also administered by the Ministry of Health. Dr. Mohammed bin Yahya Saidi, General Director of the Genetic and Chronic Diseases control administration at the Ministry, said that the program had to be abandoned after studies revealed that the test had a loophole that made it easy for individuals to circumvent the test.

“The ministry found that addicts tend to abstain from taking drugs prior to getting married so they can pass drug tests,” Saidi said. “Once married, however, they return to their drug addiction." The drug test program’s failure is the latest in a mounting series of drug-related issues in Saudi Arabia, which have been compounded by the government’s reluctance to admit that any sort of substance abuse problem is taking place in their country.

“Immense volumes” of amphetamines pass through Saudi Arabia on a regular basis, according to Matthew Nice of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In 2008, Saudis seized 12.8 metric tons of illegal amphetamines – a staggering amount when compared to the amount seized worldwide, which totaled 24.3 metric tons. A 2014 survey of addicts in Riyadh also revealed that heroin is also taking its toll on the population, with 68 percent of a group of 302 addicts admitting to its use. But the Saudi government has largely turned a blind eye to the mounting issue, as evidenced by the Education Ministry’s decision to cancel drug testing for students in 2013.

A spokesman for the ministry was quoted as saying that there was no need for the tests because “drug abuse is not rampant among Saudis, who are raised in a religious environment.” And while reports like the failure of the drug test point to a degree of change in attitude towards the subject, the government faces a considerable uphill battle in regard to treatment. Rehabilitation is a low priority for many addicts, as shown by the Riyadh survey, which revealed that of a group of 172 addicts that received medical detoxification, only six per cent returned to complete the rehabilitation program.

The Saudi government also lacks trained personnel to administer any significant treatment. “You have very highly qualified people in military and customs, but not in [drug] demand reduction or the medical approach side,” said Professor Jallal Toufiq, founder of the Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association.

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
Sober Living
An Audience with Gabor Maté

According to the rock star of addiction theory, every addict had a traumatic childhood whether they realize it or not.

The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 


This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv