Why do Arabs smoke hashish more often comparing to other nationalities?

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Hashishism in Arab countries is not considered as a serious issue, however now every fourth person in the Arab world is in the group of risk.

Who smokes more among Arabs?

"Ask a taxi driver, if you don’t see religious symbols in a car or go to the slums, every second person sells it there" - such an advice is given to Western travelers who are going to visit Middle East by a tourist guide Webehigh.org, a website for keen smokers of marijuana, hashish and other cannabinoids. At some point, the word "hashish” (hash) migrated into European languages from Arabic world. In addition, despite the prohibition prescribed in Islam, hashish is one of the three most common drugs in Arab countries.

According to UN World Drug Report, the number of Egypt citizens who have been smoking marijuana at least once a year, in 2006 reached 6.2% of the total population. A similar study in Morocco conducted in 2004, showed that 4.2% of the population smoke hashish occasionally. In 2005, the number of marijuana consumers in Kuwait was 3.1% of the total population. In UAE, this index reached 5.4% in 2006. Hashish is consumed less in Saudi Arabia - 0.3% in 2006, but this value is poorly correlated with the reality of Riyadh, Jeddah and even sacred Mecca.

At the time of the research, almost in all Arab countries cannabis consumption was higher than the world average. According to statistics from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 2.5% of the world population consumes marijuana and other narcotic drugs made from hemp. Thus, every percentage point stands for millions and hundreds of thousands of smokers.

The Arab world includes 23 states and about 345 million people. At least 10% of them are regular consumers of hashish. In other words, about 34.5 million of Arabs from various countries of the Middle East and North Africa smoke hashish.

Moreover, according to the research, nine out of ten cases the person who consumes hashish, smokes cigarettes. Totally, 9% of the population of the Arab world smoke tobacco, but if considering this value in the context of the age, it is 2% of smokers among people under 14 years of age and 60% among those who are from 35 to 50 years old. Every fourth aged between 14 - 35 smoke cigarettes. Accordingly, such person is in the group of risk and may try hashish.

One more reason why people in Arab countries smoke hashish more often is that it is produced there in the Middle East and North Africa. The world's largest suppliers of cannabis are Morocco (about a quarter of world production), Afghanistan (15%), Lebanon and Pakistan (5%). The main routes of drug trafficking in Europe and  US are going through the Arab States, which results in that some parts of batches remain in the local market.

Hashish for poor and bored

So why don’t Arabs follow sharia law and intoxicate their minds? On the one hand, the culture of the Orient is veiled by the smoke and smoking shisha (hookah) in the nearest hookah bar is a typical leisure activity for the residents of the Arab countries. On the other hand, the majority of hashish smokers do not consider it as a drug: they mix it with tobacco and smoke it as a cigarette or add hashish to the hookah, which deprives any attribute of illegal drugs. If cigarettes and hookahs are allowed, why hashish is prohibited? Meanwhile, the laws of most Middle Eastern countries provides severe punishment for drug possession, up to death penalty with beheading in Saudi Arabia (if law enforcement officers find a big consignment of drugs and decide that it was intended for distribution).

Propaganda of hashish was prohibited as well. Saudi police put a boy on the wanted list, who uploaded a video to the internet, showing how to properly roll a cigarette.

However, hashish remains to be a drug consumed very often and as in the case with cigarettes, the reason for this is to ease the psychological stress and allay boredom. High unemployment is one more reason for this problem; hashish sale became a part of shadow economy, which enables socially vulnerable groups to engage in drug trafficking and earn a living. In Egypt, hashish is sold in small poor villages, remote urban areas and in hookah bars. Moreover, it is considered that alcohol is intended for the middle class and hashish for the poor.

Actually, hashish is not a luxury in the Middle East for those who want to hang out. In the wealthiest Gulf state Saudi Arabia, the portion of hashish with the thickness of a little finger costs only 100 riyals (26 dollars odd). If in Europe's this scarce and  prohibited product is measured in grams, in the kingdom's capital Riyadh sellers do things in a big way. However, some dealers, nevertheless, sell the consignment for 250 riyals only. In Egypt, the most densely populated Arab country, dealers sell 10 grams of hashish for 5 dollars and according to preferences, it is possible to choose hashish from: Sudan, Morocco and Afghanistan. Even with foreigners, it is rare when drug dealers pass of Shegra to them (sort of hashish of a light color and poor quality). As for locals,  they know exactly what they want for their money.

Treatment and returning to Allah

Due to the fact that most people do not consider hashish as a dangerous drug and Shariah rules are not being followed, number of marijuana addicted grows. "We are getting an impression that cannabinoids are legalized in Arab countries, as they are not considered as drugs by the society, in contrast to the post-Soviet countries," - says Yulia Vassil, psychiatrist of the  rehabilitation clinic "Medical Center of Dr. Nazaraliev" (MCN). This applies equally to the  patients from Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, UAE and other Arab countries.

According to Yulia Vassil, you cannot compare opiate drugs and marijuana; these are two fundamentally different types of psychoactive substances. However, smoking hashish on a long-term basis may result in lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, labial tumor, inflammation of airways, the weakening of immune system and possibly development of psychological disorders.

"Many patients who come to our clinic with addiction from hashish and marijuana are deeply immersed in the world of their own emotions” – sais Jenishbek Nazaraliev, a scientist, doctor of medicine, psychiatrist with  25 years of working experience – hashish addicted eventually become autistic, passive and weak-willed. In psychiatry, these symptoms are the signs of apathy abulia syndrome". According to Professor Nazaraliev, hashish reduces person’s energy potential and in a state of intoxication it can cause hallucinations. He drew attention to the fact that, as a rule, family members notice the behavior change only 2-3 years after.  "More than half of patients come to our clinic with schizophrenia-like disorder that aggravates the psychological dependence on hashish" - sums up Nazaraliev.

Such deviation are caused by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the chemical substance contained in hemp, which is also used for medical purposes. However, as part of hashish it has the opposite effect. In particular, it leads to psychological changes, slows reaction, affects intellectual abilities, impairs memory and mental agility. According to MCN experts, organic lesions occur rarely.  Nevertheless, in MCN patients addicted to hashish receive a course of medical and psychological treatment.

The patient from Saudi Arabia, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he came to the Kyrgyz Republic, where MCN clinic is located, because no one except for his family member knew about his addiction to hashish. He could not go to a local rehabilitation center out of fear that more people will found out about his trouble and they will judge him, as it is not morally acceptable according to Islam. In MCN he had a conversation with a clergyman and then he had decided to live according to Sharia laws, after he returns home to Jeddah.

"I started smoking just for fun, or maybe out of boredom.  But Allah had created this world not for us to be ruining ourselves. And whoever who is intoxicating his mind out of boredom estranges from Allah. It is clear that it always ends badly, "- said the patient who has been recently suffering from hashish addiction.