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Saudi Program Looks to U.S. for Addiction Treatment Guidance

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In Saudi Arabia, where alcohol and other drug use is strictly forbidden by Islamic law, acknowledging and treating addicts poses significant challenges. But Mohammed Al-Turaiki, CEO of a Saudi treatment program, is trying to change all that, the Associated Press reported May 26.

Al-Turaiki is the chief executive of Saudi Care for Rehabilitation and Health Care in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He visited Brighton Hospital in Detroit, a city that’s home to a large Arab and Muslim population, to try and find a model for Muslim addiction treatment for his own planned 250-bed treatment hospital back home. Brighton provides culturally sensitive care and connections to the local Arab-American community, including social-services groups offering addiction counseling and an Arabic-English 12-step program.

The 12-step program, co-founded by Arab-American Muslim Alec Berry, was of particular interest to Al-Turaiki. The two noted the congruencies between Islam and the program’s third step, which encourages participants to turn one’s life “over to the care of God as we understood him.” Berry will travel to Saudi Arabia to assist Al-Taraiki in developing a post-treatment program once the consulting agreement between Brighton and Saudi Care is settled.

Though there are no statistics on addiction and recidivism in Saudi Arabia, Al-Taraiki suspects the odds of success “are at least twice as unfavorable as recorded in the best treatment centers in the U.S.”

Saudi Arabia must fight the stigma against treatment, he said, and build the kind of services to meet the needs of its closeted addicts.

“We know the gap is too wide,” he said.

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