The government has reclassified illegal drugs as a threat to national security, moving away from the health-centric perspective held by the previous administration. The National Drug Agency (NDA), which the Ministry of Health previously oversaw during the Ibrahim Mohamed Solih administration, has been realigned under the Ministry of Homeland Security and Technology in President Mohamed Muizzu’s administration.

Despite the administrative realignment of the NDA, the government remains committed to providing treatment and rehabilitation for individuals struggling with substance abuse, according to Mohamed Firzul Abdulla Khaleel, the Under Secretary for Public Policy. “Previously, substance abuse was primarily viewed as a public health issue. Now, the president and the government perceive it as intricately linked to national security,” Firzul stated.

The government’s strategy involves a two-pronged approach: curtailing the avenues of illicit drug trafficking and prioritising the provision of necessary therapeutic care for individuals grappling with substance abuse. “Our primary objective is to stop the flow of illicit drugs. Concurrently, we must prioritise providing the requisite therapeutic care for individuals struggling with substance abuse. We have expanded opportunities for treatment and societal reintegration for these individuals,” Firzul elaborated. The responsibility of ensuring a comprehensive and holistic approach to the issue of substance abuse now falls under the purview of the homeland security ministry.

Substance abuse, a significant health concern, is linked to numerous health issues, including lung or heart disease, stroke, cancer, and mental health conditions, according to international organisations. The misuse of substances poses inherent health risks and often leads to mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia.

These disorders can either precede addiction or be triggered by drug use, especially in individuals with specific vulnerabilities. Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach that includes prevention, treatment, and recovery support services, acknowledging the significant social, economic, and legal implications of substance abuse.

As part of the government’s efforts to address the issue of illicit drugs, it has launched “Operation Fanaaru” to provide treatment and rehabilitation for the 700 individuals who are ordered by the courts to seek treatment for drug abuse. Firzul expressed confidence that they can address and offer treatement to all those requiring treatment under the operation.

The NDA was previously under the mandate of the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services in the Solih administration and was moved to the health ministry in May 2021. This move underscored the high importance accorded by the Solih administration to providing treatment to individuals struggling with substance abuse. The NDA board is comprised of 10 members appointed by the president.