Regional challenges are highlighted in multiple AMECA symposia organized within the 19th ISAM conference

Abu Dhabi, UAE. The Africa and Middle East Congress on Addiction (AMECA) organized three symposia conducted within the 19th International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) conference in Abu Dhabi (25-29 October, 2017). The symposia focused on recent research findings on addiction, regional challenges in addiction, latest research findings in tobacco addiction in the region, and research related to women health. The symposia were chaired by Prof. Mustafa al’Absi (University of Minnesota and Chair of AMECA Scientific Committees), Prof. Richard Rawson (University of Vermont), and Prof. Scott Sherman (New York University Abu Dhabi). “This partnership with ISAM has enabled us to highlight addiction research in the region and related pressing concerns and trends” Prof. al’Absi indicated in his introductory remarks. The region faces many challenges that complicate substance use problems including increased burden of mental health related to trauma and violence occurring in multiple countries in the region, al’Absi added.

One of the symposia highlighted findings related to 1) life adversity, trauma, and violence and risk for addictive behaviors, 2) escalating trends of cannabis and waterpipe use, 3) the unique challenges related to khat use in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and 4) evaluation research focusing on outcome of ongoing capacity building efforts in the region. The second symposium focused on tobacco research in women in the Middle East and North Africa and included presentations on passive exposure to tobacco, effects on pregnancy outcome, co-use of hookah and cigarettes, as well as prevalence and attitudes towards tobacco use in female youth. The third symposium highlighted new trends in tobacco addiction in the region covering patterns of use, regional trends, and psychosocial risk factors associated with tobacco use as well as unique regional challenges including the use of dokha and waterpipe.

Participants represented multiple regional and international universities and research centers and included Dr. Sana El Mhamdi (Faculty of Medicine, University Hospital of Monastir, Tunisia), Dr. Michael Odenwald (University of Konstanz, Germany), Dr. Nael Hasan (National Rehabilitation Center, UAE), Norbert Goldfield (National Rehabilitation Center, UAE), Arwa Ben Salah (University Hospital of Monastir, Tunisia), Dr. Omar El Shahawy (New York University/Abu Dhabi), Dr. Heba Barazi (Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, UAE), Dr. Scott Sherman (NYU Abu Dhabi), and Dr. Jenni A. Shearston (NYU New York).