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Dubai Police seized 65 million illegal painkillers in 2015.

A senior Dubai police officer is warning of a "worrying" boom in the illegal drugs trade as seizures of banned painkillers have almost trebled in the past year.

Dubai Police confiscated 65.4 million illegal painkillers in 2015, up from 24.5m in 2014.

Colonel Eid Thani Hareb, Director of Anti-Narcotics Department, said tramadol, which taken in excess gives the user a high, was the most common drug seized.

He said: "We've seen a 166 per cent increase [in seizures of] illegal painkillers and the amount of drugs overall is up nearly 60 per cent -- it's a big increase.

"The drug problem is worrying and it has become worse because of the security situation in many Middle Eastern countries...it's become easy to produce and smuggle."

He said tramadol is the most common drug found for that reason.

Hareb added: "Illegal painkillers are easy to consume, just like any pills. They don't need special tools for consumption."

Tramadol is only available in the UAE on prescription, as is the case in many other countries.

The anti-narcotics chief said smugglers are getting more inventive with how they hide their drugs, with officers last year finding drugs hidden in inside industrial pipes, furniture, clothing, baby toys and cosmetic products.

But he said one reason for the rise in the amount of pills seized is that police are getting better at stopping drugs.

He said: "Our officers learn more skills every day through training and are seeing new ways that drugs are being smuggled.This is why we are arresting more dealers and why the amount of drugs seized is rising."

Dubai Police said that they arrested 80 "big dealers" last year, with 1,377 drug cases recorded and 1,864 suspects arrested. This was up from 1,267 cases and 1,667 suspects in 2014.

Poppy seeds, which can be used to make opiates, was the second most common drug seized, at 177kg.

Cocaine was next, with 163kg seized followed by heroin (99kg).

But Hareb said that there is a focus on tramadol, which he said can "open the path to addiction".He said officers recently arrested teenagers under 18 for possessing and taking tramadol, including in schools.

He said: "We are running campaigns and visiting schools to educate pupils about illegal painkillers, to understand they are illegal and can open the path to addiction."

Among the recent cases was a 14-year-old Emirati pupil at a public school who gave a friend a tramadol pill when he complained of a headache.

Police said it emerged that the child had been stealing the pills from his father. Neither he, nor his mother, a doctor, had noticed, which officers described as "negligent".

"Parental negligence and kids being left with maids all the time is the main reason behind drug addiction... parents must be responsible, they monitor their children", Hareb added.

ali.shouk@7days.ae

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Apr 19, 2016
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