Concerns raised over Arab youth’s drug, alcohol abuse

Addicts fare worse among the country’s Arab minority, expert warns

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Rolling a joint (illustrative photo: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Rolling a joint (illustrative photo: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Drug and alcohol abuse among Israeli Arabs is made worse because the society lacks the resources to counter the trend, according to an expert from the Israel Anti-Drug Authority.

Figures presented by Walid Hadad at a recent conference in Haifa showed that the percentage of Israeli Arab teenagers who drank was much lower than the percentage among their Jewish counterparts, while somewhat more of them used drugs, the Maariv daily reported on Sunday.

Over the past year 25% of Israel’s Arabs aged 12-18 tried alcohol, compared to 60% among Jewish youths of the same ages. Soft drugs, such as marijuana, were used by 12% of Arabs in their teen years compared to just 10% among Jews. Nine percent of Arab youths used hard drugs compared to just 4% among Jews aged 12-18.

The reality is worse than the statistics reveal, according to Hadad.

While Jewish kids are exposed to messages encouraging responsible drinking, no such educational lessons are imparted among the Muslim population, where alcohol, along with drugs, is strictly banned, Hadad said. The vast majority of the country’s Arab population is Muslim.

With few local shops or bars selling alcohol, Arabs often leave their towns and purchase drinks at gas stations, where the same amount of money purchases more to drink, Hadad posited. The cultural divide between Jews and Arabs and the minority Arab population’s lack of respect for the state and its legal institutions further exacerbates the plights of alcoholics and drug addicts, who are little deterred by possible criminal records, he said.

“Arab identity today is facing a question mark,” Hadad said. “It is a struggle of identity and meaning.”

To make matters worse, Israeli rehabilitation programs utilize a Western approach that is inadequate in dealing with addicts from an Arab culture. According to Hadad, the success rate of such programs among Arabs is just 3%.

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