JAFFA, Israel – A new study has shown a sharp increase in drug use among Saudi teenagers, with one in three middle school students and one in four girls of the same age group saying they have used drugs.
The figures, released by Saudi Arabia’s Young People Research Institute, show a clear rise in drug use in every region in the kingdom.
Headmasters told the Al Madina newspaper that schools across the country have stepped up efforts to raise awareness and educate students, but as one headmaster said, “the war on drugs, especially at this problematic age, requires the education system, schools, families, and the authorities to join in the effort.”
The chairman of the Saudi anti-drug authority estimated that the numbers mostly apply to captagon, a stimulant that has gained popularity among students as a cognitive performance enhancer, allegedly helping them do better in school.
The study and the media outlets that published it came under fire for its “dubious methodology” that is supposedly “libeling” Saudi society.
Some social media users said that the study is proof that Saudi Arabia is under attack, and that drugs are yet another weapon with which the enemies of the state target young people.
The Saudi media runs daily reports on arrests of drug smugglers and distributors, who face capital punishment and 15 years’ imprisonment, respectively.
A drug user, conversely, faces up to two years’ imprisonment, though it is applied only in cases of recidivism. First-time users are usually sent to rehab.