Abu Dhabi Rehab Caters to Alcoholic Expats

By Dirk Hanson 05/20/11

Alcoholics Anonymous Arabia has chalked up a 700% increase in attendance since the first few meetings in the 90s.

Alcoholic expats may no longer have to go home.
Photo via topnews

“Boozy brunches and binge drinking are the order of the day” among expatriates working in the United Arab Emirates. Reporting from Dubai, the U.A.E’s capitol city, staff reporter Michelle Sutton of Gulf News revealed  yesterday that “the problem has assumed such epidemic proportions that authorities are considering offering alcohol rehab services to expatriates." It’s the first time this service has been offered to residents, regardless of nationality. Alcoholics who come to the U.A.E. with the expectation that booze will be hard to find are—depending on their plans—either disappointed or elated to discover that the liquor keeps flowing. In many cases, say counselors, people are forced to give up their jobs and return to their home country in order to find treatment.

Is this just a case of Muslim officials in the U.A.E. making a big deal about a little booze, or is there a trend here? Research firm Euromonitor reports a stunning 30% rise in U.A.E. alcohol consumption in the past five years. A National Rehabilitation Centre (N.R.C) report said that more than 5% of the total deaths in the U.A.E. were attributable to alcohol and other drugs. And all this in a Muslim country where the consumption of alcohol is forbidden for Muslims and rigidly regulated for everyone else. Nonetheless, Alcoholics Anonymous Arabia is said to have chalked up an astronomical 700% increase in attendance since the first few meetings in the 90s. This is not your mother’s Abu Dhabi anymore.

The N.R.C. plans to offer treatment for expats, with clinics, counseling, and after-care services in a region where, traditionally, there has been no treatment available beyond A.A. Gulf News describes an “expat social scene saturated with alcohol…. A number of Dubai residents are drowning in booze, unable to keep their heads above the surface.”

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]