Drug Abuse in Israel

In the 1980s, the illegal use of drugs in Israel ceased to be a marginal phenomenon and began to have serious impact. The effects on Israeli society have not lessened.

Since Israel is a dynamic, modem, basically Western country, it is only natural for us to emulate lifestyles and customs of the West. Although the scale of drug abuse is far smaller than in the United States, it approximates. in our assessment, average European levels (e.g. in England, France, Germany). There is no doubt that the habit has spread to all sectors of the population and all parts of the country. Despite the efforts at denial by some and the lack of awareness of many others, the question is no longer whether abuse exists in a particular locale or sector but how widespread it is there.

The prevailing belief in the 1980s that drug abuse was a marginal problem was, even then, incompatible with the trends in drug use that were being confronted by a few agencies, mainly the INP and the Ministry of Health. These trends were:

* A strong shift from hashish to heroin;
* Exponential growth in the quantities of drugs available for local use;
* The spread of drug abuse, from being a feature of particular populations, such as deprived neighborhoods or bohemian circles, to all strata of society and all regions of the country.

The Foundation of the Anti-Drug Authority (ADA)

The ADA was created by the Anti-Drug Authority Law in December 1988. The Law stipulates the Authority’s main purposes to be:

* To formulate national policy;
* To coordinate between government departments and institutions;
* To establish and develop services for preventive education, the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, law enforcement and community activity;
* To build up human resource capital and to foster research and development;
* To organize voluntarism.

The ADA coordinates the activity of the numerous government ministries responsible for aspects of the fight against drug abuse: the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and its Information Centers (preventive education); the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (treatment and rehabilitation); the Ministries of Police, Justice and Defense (law enforcement); the Ministry of the Interior (local government); and also other agencies, mostly non-profit organizations, engaged in the struggle, such as Al-Sam, Al-Hilal (Arab sector), MANAS

(Families Victims of Drugs), and others.

The ADA is responsible, ultimately, to the Prime Minister himself. It is headed by a council of 43 members representing all ministerial departments, professional organizations and non-profit agencies and including also four representatives of the public. The council sets policy and approves and oversees the implementation of the ADA’s program and budget. The Authority’s ongoing activity is overseen by a directorate of nine, representing ministerial departments and including one representative of the public.

Government Policy

Concisely and at the cost of some generalization, the policy of the ADA can be summed up by the following ten points:

1. To deliver structured educational programs to the entire school system and to other youth settings. (Decision SM/2 of the Ministerial Committee for the War on Drugs, 6.12.89);

2. To administer an intense information campaign, utilizing all available means to heighten awareness among parents and the general public and compel them to take a stand (Decision SM/2 of the Ministerial Committee for the War on Drugs, 6.12.89);

3. To provide treatment and rehabilitation for all addicts who are ready and able to cope with it (Decision SM/2 of the Ministerial Committee for the War on Drugs, 6.12.89);

4. To enforce the law more stringently, emphasizing interdiction of drug imports and trafficking (Policy not yet given formal approval);

5. To make punishment harsher for drug dealers and others who abet the illegal use of drugs (Policy not yet given formal approval);

6. To bring about multifaceted community action in every locality (Policy not yet given formal approval);

7. To build up a well-trained, professional staff to carry out the various elements of the war on drugs (Decision S/8 of the Ministerial Committee for the War on Drugs, 8.3.92);

8. To foster research and knowledge development on drug abuse (Decision S/2 of the Ministerial Committee for the War on Drugs, 1. 8.90);

9. To expand and deepen links with, and the supply of information to, local government and other agencies active in the field in Israel and abroad (Decision S/5 of the Ministerial Committee for the War on Drugs, 28.4.91);

10. To expand the volunteer (human and economic resources) effort (Policy not yet given formal approval).

The following are the various components making-up the ADA’s activities towards the reduction and prevention of drug-abuse:

Information Dissemination and Preventive Education

This is a crucial component of the ADA’s work to prevent/reduce drug abuse in a number of target populations. ADA operations under this heading encompass all strata and sectors, adapting language and style to the needs and nature of each. The work is carried out in schools and other educational establishments, in community facilities and via the mass media.

In recent years, it is notable that more organizations and individuals are willing to take an active part in such work. The increase in the scope and scale of activity, revealed in the comparative statistics for 1988 and 1994, has been remarkable:

In 1988, about 30 high schools only conducted preventive education; in 1994, about 1,000 elementary and high schools were doing so. For youth not in school, the two schemes "Youth Says No to Drugs" and "Life Without Drugs" together reached some 3,300 youths at 68 sites. Whereas in 1988 Al-Sam (a voluntary organization campaigning against drug abuse) and Al-Hilal (its counterpart in the Arab sector) ran, between them, 8 counselling units, by 1994 there were 15 and a mobile information van covered 30 more sites.

In 1988, preventive activity in community facilities could be found at 6 District Information Centers of the Ministry of Education. In 1994, ADA financed via local government authorities (LGAs) 65 Anti-Drug Coordinators covering 60 population centers, 15 of them in Arab and other non-Jewish sectors. A whole range of devices and methods were being used to disseminate information and expand public awareness: 2 special weeks of anti-drug-abuse broadcasts; films and plays; computer games; poster campaign; informational public meetings; regular public-service broadcasts for youth and parents; mass public information campaigns. One campaign had the slogan "Drugs Endanger Your Freedom", and another "Drugs Are Wiping You Out It’s a Fact".

Treatment and Rehabilitation (T&A)

In 1994, the treatment and rehabilitation network provided services to some 4,500 persons in a range of facilities administered by the Ministries of Health and Labor and Social Affairs, the Prison Service and the ADA. Other victims of drug abuse were treated outside the governmental system in private and voluntary facilities.

The dominant approach to the addict in treatment is comprehensive, multi- faceted including case work, group and family therapy, rehabilitation, legal aid, help with housing, finding and keeping a job and National Insurance, etc. tailoring the program to the abilities and motivation of the addict. To carry out this approach services have been developed not only for physical withdrawal but also for psycho-social care and support by means of drug substitutes.

In 1988, T&A was available at only 7 sites in the community. By 1994, 160 social workers in 80 Bureaux of Social Services were providing services. In 1988, the only Therapeutic Community was Har-Tuv with 24 beds. Today, Har-Tuv, after renovation, has 75 beds, Ilanot – 90 beds, Malkishua – 90 beds (and infrastructure for 100), Zoharim – 70 beds.

From 10 beds at one site in 1988, institutional treatment (inpatient detoxification) had expanded by 1994 to 101 beds at 7 sites, not including Prison Service facilities. Treatment with drug substitutes was available at 9 Methadone centers (including a mobile van). Ambulatory treatment centers had increased from 3 to 6. There were 3 testing laboratories.

Youth Treatment and Rehabilitation

In 1994, two Youth Recovery Centers were set up for the outpatient treatment of young addicts. A closed treatment unit, accommodating six youths within a family setting, was also set up. A residential Education Center for 25 young addicts is at an advanced stage of planning.

Community Action

Five years on, the Community Action Project remains the chief vehicle for expanding and consolidating awareness of the drug abuse problem, among both the young and adults. Its work is based on the participation and cooperation of local community leadership, residents, local government departments, and the ADA. A local ADA coordinator works with the community leadership to advance the Project.

In 1994, the ADA was involved in community action at different levels in 87 localities, including 15 in the Arab sector and the Kibbutz Movement Alliance. An ADA coordinator was active in 60 communities. The ADA underwrites half the cost of the coordinator and also finances preventive action in the community.

The work of the coordinators is supervised to maintain standards of performance and only well-qualified persons are hired for this demanding job. Their training pattern has been restructured. All coordinators now meet once every two months for a day of training and, in alternate months, smaller groups meet for in-depth debate of specific problems. All coordinators must complete, within a reasonable time, the training course designed by the ADA and conducted by Bar Ilan University.

Law Enforcement

Activity under this heading encompasses the legislative, judicial and executive authorities.

* ADA pursued fruitful collaboration with the Knesset Anti-Drugs Committee to secure a more thorough enforcement of existing law.

* ADA proposed to the Israel National Police (INP) to reinforce and streamline anti-drug activity by:

– Reinforcing existing INP drug units: ADA bought new detection equipment for the Lebanese Border Unit; helped set up a similar unit for the Egyptian border; and is planning a third unit for the Jordanian border.

– Deploying sniffer dogs: The American authorities contributed two drug-detecting dogs and two trainers for work at Ben Gurion Airport, while the ADA funded the construction and equipping of the airport kennel.

– Acquiring more sophisticated technology: With a contribution from the Confiscations Fund, ADA bought a new computer system and other equipment for the Drugs Section of the INP.

– More INP Liaison officers have been stationed abroad at the sources of drug imports to Israel. This has proved very effective in cutting down the flow of drugs to Israel and the ADA continues to assist in the funding of these officers.

* Customs

In 1993, the government decided that the Customs Authority would begin to participate in the interdiction of drug imports to Israel. A unit of 180 agents was set up, trained and has begun to operate. This puts an end to an anomalous situation, whereby Israel had been one of the few countries in the world in which the customs authorities took no part in the war on drug abuse.

Research and Information

The war on drug abuse is multidisciplinary and so the research effort must be wide-ranging into the epidemiological, medical, pharmacological, psychological, physiological, sociological and economic aspects of drug-abuse. In the five years 1988-1992, some 50 research studies were carried out. In 1993, 32 research studies were in progress. Research activity focused on the following tasks:

* Assessing changes in pattern and extent of illegal drug use;
* Deepening understanding of drug-use by means of longitudinal studies;
* Promoting and coordinating research, giving advice on research and use of the data generated by research;
* Evaluation of ADA activity;
* Filtering of new research proposals;
* Disseminating information and research data to public;
* Arranging meetings of researchers for discussion;
* Setting up computerized databank and computerizing the work of ADA;
* Continuing bibliographical work.

(See also the article in this Report on the evaluation of the influence of mass media publicity.)

Human Resources Development

In 1994, the ADA continued to design and set up basic academic training programs (at B.A. and M.A. Level, and as part of Extension Studies) and training courses in specific skills for those whose work bears on the fight against drug abuse. Some examples are:

* M.A. degree course in ‘Addiction to Psychoactive Substances’, at the University of Tel Aviv;
* ‘Drug Abuse, Crime and Rehabilitation’ and ‘The Mystical cults Phenomenon’, at Bar Ilan University Criminology Dept.
* A course on ‘Interventions with Drug Abusers’ within a B.A. degree program, in the School of Social Work, at Hebrew University, Jerusalem;
* ‘Orientation with a Preventive Emphasis’, in the Behavioral Sciences Dept- at Ben Gurion University.

Ten students employed as coordinators in the ADA’s Community Action Project completed 120 hours of study in 1994 (80 in community action and 40 in drugs matters).

At community level, the ADA assisted a number of LGAs develop enrichment and preventive programs. Training and in-depth study courses were conducted by government ministries and other agencies working with the ADA.

* The Ministry of Health sponsored seminar days on a number of topics via its Addictions Treatment Dept.;
* The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs organized a basic 350-hour course for 28 social workers who deal with drug victims, and other courses on Family Treatment for drugs counselors who are former addicts;
* 2,875 teachers and other school staff took part in one or more of the Ministry of Education’s 130 in-depth courses and workshops (from 26 to 50 hours each);
* Prevention courses at Haifa University and two northern colleges (122 hours) attracted 85 participants.


The ADA works with the Ministry of Justice and the Knesset to promote legislation.

In June, 1994, regulations were published bringing into force the Law for the Supervision of Institutions Treating Drug Users.

The Knesset Committee on Drug Abuse submitted a series of bills and amendments which passed their first reading. The purpose of this legislation is:

* to amend the 1988 Drug Control Authority Law and the Municipal Ordinance (for the regulation of municipal involvement in preventive activity);
* to amend the regulations for the treatment of drug victims;
* to deal with issues concerning infants born with withdrawal symptoms;
* to fix penalties for persons found with drugs on school premises.

Other legislation in preparation will permit the ADA to store data on drug abuse. Passage of a law on the laundering of money deriving from drug trafficking will permit Israel to affiliate itself to the 1988 U.N. Convention on the subject.

This article is excerpted from the Annual Reports (Nos. 5 and 6) of the ADA for 1993 and 1994.