Laws Prohibiting Consumption and Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs in the GCC

A narcotic is a substance used to treat modest to severe pain; narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances under international control appear in various names, complicating the mission of national, and international drug control authorities. In 1961 was adopted in New York the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This Convention entered into force on 13 December 1964, and there is a high level of commitment of member States to founding a drug control scheme. The primary purpose is to guarantee that narcotic drugs were limited to scientific and medical purposes. The 1972 protocol amended the 1961 Convention that introduced an essential element of control and included an obligation for the Member States to reduce the demand for illicit drugs. This protocol entered into force in 1975, and by 1980, 66 States had become parties to the 1971 Protocol. Concerning the Middle East Region, the King of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait are members of this Convention; conversely, countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrein are not member States of this Convention.

The use of illegal drugs is a global concern—these substances for which extra-medical uses have been forbidden and criminalized under international drug control agreements. Notwithstanding international efforts to eradicate drug misuse, the worldwide consumption trend of these elements increases endlessly. It was estimated that almost 275 million people (5.5% of the world’s population) had used illicit substances at least once in 2018, which increased 30% compared with that in 2009. Therefore, extra measures are needed to tackle this constant crisis. Illicit substance abuse imposes enormous costs on global health and the economy. The consumption of these substances increases the risks of adverse health conditions, including but not limited to disability, viral infections, sepsis, thrombosis, and endocarditis. The International Narcotics Control Board estimates that medical care costs related to drug misuse are more than $200 billion yearly.

In the GCC region, approximately 60% of the population are less than twenty (20) years old. According to history, opium was considered a medicinal substance in the Middle East, but this substance is semi-synthetic nowadays. 90% of GCC heroin addicts use it intravenously, sharing a contaminated needle causes infections of human immune deficiency virus; additionally, the number of cases of heroin addiction is frequently directly related to the number of misconducts. Nevertheless, the GCC region has a solid political restriction concerning narcotic drugs. In this document, we will study the laws on consumption and trafficking of narcotic drugs in counties such as Bahrain (1), Oman (2), Kuwait (3), Qatar (4), Saudi Arabia (5), and the United Arab Emirates (6).


1. Bahrain

According to the Bahrain Customs Handbook, narcotics drugs such as heroin, cocaine, hashish, pills having drug effects, etc., cannot be imported into this country. In 2013, there was the confiscation of 51 kg of narcotics and 13 deaths among youth. In the first five months of 2014, 399 cases were investigated, 187 kilograms of hashish and other narcotics were confiscated, and there were 14 cases of drug-related deaths

Law Number 15/2007 concerning narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is the primary legislation governing legal possession of controlled substances. With this Law was established the National Committee for Narcotic and psychotropic substances, affiliated to the Council of Ministers and specialized in proposing a general policy for combating the illicit uses of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, and precursors, and coordinate cooperation between various governmental and non-governmental agencies. This committee shall be concerned with the following:

According to the Law, a license is necessarily issued by the Minister after paying the prescribed fee for narcotic drugs. It is prohibited to grant any license to

The license is considered null by force of Law if one of the cases above has been ascertained in the person whose name it was issued.

Instead, it is not permissible to license the import, export, or transfer of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, or precursors except to the following entities: Governmental agencies, colleges, specialized institutes, and scientific research centres for the licensee, licensed hospitals, licensed chemical analysis laboratories and industrial laboratories, pharmaceutical factories, and licensed pharmacy centers. The Minister’s decision determines the rules governing the exchange of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, and precursors. Concerning the doctors, it is not permissible for any doctor licensed to practice the medical profession to prescribe narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances to any patient except for treatment and the requirements of recognized medical principles. The physician is prohibited under any circumstances from preparing for himself a prescription for any quantity of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.

As per Law Number 15/2007, a person shall be punished by death or life imprisonment, and a fine of a maximum of five thousand dinars (BHD 5,000) and not exceeding fifty thousand dinars (BHD 50,000), whoever commits, with the intention of trafficking, any of the following acts:

In case of recidivism, committing the crime by a public official or person entrusted with a public service which is charged with combating crimes of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances or precursors, or controlling and inspecting their circulation or possession, using a minor to commit one of these crimes, participation in an international gang to smuggle narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances or precursors, or work for it or co-operate with it, the punishment shall be the death penalty and a fine of maximum five thousand dinars and not exceeding fifty thousand dinars.

In February 2014, the Minister of the interior of Bahrain (Lieutenant-General Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa) and the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to improve cooperation counter illicit drug trafficking. This MoU between UNODC and Bahrain supports the Interior Ministry’s law implementation reform in crime prevention, drug control, and emerging forms of crime. It provided the foundation for a training program in partnership with the Royal Academy of Police. Due to their geographical position Gulf countries are vulnerable to trafficking drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and other illicit drugs. This underlines the need to intercept the illegal drugs and precursor chemicals as they move between ports in West Asia and the Gulf region.

In conclusion, Drugs are severely prohibited, even a tiny amount in Bahrain. Trafficking and consuming narcotic drugs, even if you pass through the airport from one country to another, can result in incarceration and deportation. Buying or selling narcotics drugs is a severe crime that can result in life imprisonment, as we mentioned before. If you are taking prescribed drugs, it is desirable to have a doctor’s prescription. If you are bringing prescription drugs into Bahrain, you may need to seek prior agreement from the authorities, and you must check with the nearest Bahrain Embassy or consulate before your trip.


2. Oman

According to an official at the Royal Oman Police, 2017 experimented with a decrease in drug-related crimes. Nevertheless, smuggling offences increased by 14%. Moreover, the cases relating to drug abuse declined 51% in the same year; this was thanks to all measures adopted by the authorities to reduce smuggling cases. About persons who consume drugs, the Ministry of Health shows that more than 2700 were treated in clinics for drug dependence in 2016, an 11% increase from 2015. Oman contributes a relatively small portion of the estimated 8 to 11 million cannabis users in the area and the estimated 2 to 4 million opiate users. Factually, Oman has been a justly minor consumer market for drugs being trafficked internationally. Locating on the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, not far away from the world’s largest heroin trafficking networks, Oman has been chiefly exempted from the difficulties seen in Europe and the Americas.

Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances can cause addiction and are likely to be misused; there is strict control in Oman. We can find the Royal Decree Number 17/99, the Law of Combat of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (and its amendments), and Ministerial Decision Number 98/2001. With the Customs’ decision Number 80/2012 was established the Directorate General of Combating drugs and Psychotropic substances, its main functions are:

As stated in the Omani’s Law, it is prohibited to manufacture, produce, import, export or transport, possess, avail, purchase, sell, receive, deliver, exchange, deal with, fund, take drugs and narcotics specified in the Law. Nevertheless, it is permissible to license governmental authorities, specialized colleges, institutes, and attested scientific research centres to grow any plant mentioned in the Law for medical use or scientific research that their technical nature necessitates coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth. According to the Law, a license is not permitted to:

According to modifications made in Combating Narcotics and Psychotropic Drugs Law, perpetrators face rigid penalties, such as the death penalty and life sentence for drug peddlers and smugglers. Article 43 of the amended Law specifies the death penalty or life in prison for drug sellers and a fine of more than RO 25,000. It also lays down the death penalty for anyone who has a connection with international drug trafficking bands. Anyone who imports produces, or exports drugs will face either the death penalty or a life sentence, according to Article 43.

In Oman, each institution must have its list of permitted Narcotics and Psychotropic substances to be used in their establishment. The list should be improved if practices change and should be subject to regular reviews at decided intervals. Additionally, from the Directorate General of Pharmaceutical Affairs and Drug Control (DGPA&DC), the institutions must obtain a license to deal with Narcotics and psychotropic substances. Controlled Drugs (CDs) must be kept in a cabinet locked with a key or number lock. The closed cabinet should be made of metal and should not be transferable. Pharmacologists are only permitted to dispense CDs if a certified doctor with a license to deal with Controlled Drugs issues the treatment. Licensed doctors in private health institutions can keep five ampoules of morphine or five ampoules diazepam for emergency use.

In conclusion, there is zero-tolerance for drug-related faults. The penalties for trafficking, smuggling, and possession, of even residual amounts of drugs are severe. In some situations, the death penalty could apply. There is no distinction in Oman between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drugs; both are treated with equal strictness. On the other hand, in 2016, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) first mission was carried out in Oman, whose objective was to discuss issues related to the Sultanate’s implementation of the worldwide drug control treaties to which Oman is a party. Oman has taken many procedures internationally, such as:


3. Kuwait

The GCC region is considered a crossing point and a consumer of illicit drugs. The most consumed substances in Kuwait are amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis, heroin, and deaths resulting from benzodiazepines and heroin abuse were the highest between 2015-2018. Concerning narcotic drug trafficking, between 2012 and 2017, there was a total of 1.142 legal deportations for taking and trading illicit drugs in Kuwait.

In 2020, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Kuwait issued Ministerial Decree Number 361 of 2019 regarding the registration of pharmaceuticals. A foreign pharmaceutical product may only be introduced into the market:

According to Law Number 16 of 1969 promulgating the Penal Code of Kuwait, article 207 lays down a penalty of imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven (7) years. A fine not exceeding seven thousand dinars (7,000) or one of these two penalties shall be inflicted on every person who trades narcotic substances, provides them for abuse, facilitates their abuse with or without consideration, or possesses them intending to give them to others unless it is proved that he is authorized to do so.
Furthermore, article 208 states a penalty of imprisonment for a period not exceeding two (2) years and a fine not exceeding two thousand (2,000) dinars or one of these two penalties shall be inflicted on whoever buys or possesses narcotic substances with the intent to deal or personal use unless it is proved that he purchased or had these substances under a license or medical prescription. For example, if one of your friends is smoking marijuana in the same room where you are, then technically, you “made it easier” for him/her to smoke so that you could be punished for this act.

On the other hand, we find Kuwait’s anti-drugs law, regulation of their use and trafficking number 74/1983, article 2 stated that it is not allowable to produce, import, produce, export, deliver or deliver materials, own, acquire, possess, trade, buy, manufacture, sell, transport, exchange, dispensation, medical description, or deposition in any capacity or to intercede in any other way. The scientific institutes, clinics, pharmacies required a license to export and import narcotic drugs; they must submit a request to the Ministry of Public Health stating his name, address of work, the name of the substances or narcotic preparations in total, their nature, the quantity to be brought or exported, and the estimated date does not matter with the reasons qualifying the import or the export, and other data demanded by the Ministry of Public Health. The license delivered by the Ministry of Public Health in this regard is void if it is not in effect within ninety (90) days of its issue. The Public Health Minister has the right to discard the application or decrease the amount described in it. Additionally, it is not permissible to grant a license to import or export narcotic drugs to:

Some of the penalties established by the anti-drug Law in Kuwait are:

Moreover, with the creation of legal frames to avoid the consumption and trafficking of drugs, Kuwait is aware of the importance to fight against this problem globally; because of that, Kuwait had signed the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances in October 1989. Kuwait has participated in drug control training sessions and seminars to contribute to international efforts in the field. A recent study made in a group of 1.310 boys between 13-16 years old showed that 90 of these used illicit drugs in the past.

The Arab, an International Criminal Police Department, is the primary law enforcement platform for international investigations involving Kuwait or Kuwaiti citizens and coordinates the law enforcement concerning extraditions, fugitive actions, and the seizure of goods illegally acquired beyond Kuwait’s border. This institution helps police officers across Kuwait detect and investigate the flow of illicit goods along trafficking routes in and around the country.


4. Qatar

Each 26 June celebrates the International day against drug abuse and illegal drug trade with the primary objective to improve people’s understanding of the world drug problem. If you need assistance with drugs abuse, you can contact Naufal, which operates under the Ministry of Public Health. Based in Doha, Naufar is a groundbreaking new sanctuary for the wellness and treatment of substance use and related behavioural disorders. Care is provided by experts in mental health, physical health, occupational health, and addiction in a purpose-built facility with 127 residential rooms and clinics and over 50 individual and group treatment/therapy rooms.

On the other hand, In Qatar, we can find Law Number 9 of 1987 on Control and Regulation of Control and Regulation of Narcotic Drugs and Dangerous Psychotropic Substances (NDDPS) (amended by Law number 20 of 2003). Article 2 of this Law stated that the import, export, production, manufacture, cultivation, ownership, acquisition, possession, trafficking, buying, selling, transferring, delivering, and receipt of narcotic substances or plants, or dangerous psychotropic substances, as well as medical dispensation or prescription, exchange and transfer thereof, in whatever capacity, and intermediation therein, may only be permitted in the circumstances and conditions set this Law. Because NDDPS may only be imported, exported, or transported, written permission from the Public Health minister. In instances where such authorization is not granted, the Minister’s decision shall be accompanied by a statement of grounds and communicated to the applicant (article 3). This license to export, import, or transport NDDPS can be granted to:

Article 15 states that a person may possess NDDPS only for personal use and for strictly health reasons, in the quantities prescribed by physicians licensed to practice medicine in the State of Qatar. Under no circumstances shall such NDDPS be administered to another person for any reason. The physicians mentioned above may not prescribe NDDPS for any patient except for proper, legitimate, and well-indicated medical treatment. In circumstances where any part of a prescription is not used, the patient shall return the unused NDDPS to the dispenser.

Concerning sanctions stipulated by this Law, article 34 stated that whoever commits the following actions must be penalized by incarceration for a term up to twenty years (20) and not less than ten years (10) with an additional fine between three-hundred thousand (QAR 300,000) Riyals and one-hundred thousand Riyals (QAR 100,000):

Furthermore, whoever commits any of the following actions shall be punished with imprisonment for a term up to fifteen years and not less than seven years with an accompanying fine of up to two-hundred thousand (QAR 200.000) Riyals and not less than one hundred thousand (QAR 100.000) Riyals (article 35):


5. Saudi Arabia

The drug users in the Kingdom are between the ages of 12-22 and 40% rely on substances to fill a vacuum, states Abdelelah Mohammed Al-Sharif, secretary-general of the National Committee for Narcotics Control and assistant director of Anti-Drug and Preventative Affairs. The role of this entity is to protect citizens from the harmful effects of drugs by implementing national programs and policies in cooperation with public and private institutions. Captagon pills are the most popular for young people with drug addiction. Saudi Arabia is part of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), 1972 Protocol amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), and the United Nations Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988).

The General Directorate of Narcotics Control (GDNC) introduces programs for Saudis and non-Saudis. They organize campaigns against addiction to narcotics with the young generations to make them aware of the harmful effect of addiction to narcotics. The functions of the GDNC are:

According to data confirmed by the GDNC, in the last three (3) years, 181 million Captagon tablets, 61 tons of hashish, 222 kilos of heroin, and 2.206 tons of qat have been detained. The total value of the drugs detained surpassed SR 18 billion.

Saudi Law of Narcotics controls was enacted under the Royal Order Number 4/B/966 and dated 10/07/1407H, which includes the decision of the Senior Jurist Commission Number 138 dated 20/06/1407H and the Ministerial Resolution Number 11 for 1374H. According to the Narcotic Control Law, narcotic smugglers, dealers, and users are different:

Additionally, the Law excluded students from a sentence and limited it to disciplining and monitoring them; their guardians shall promise to instruct and guide them to make sure they are rehabilitated. The jail period for a student should never surpass three (3) months or be punished by fifty (50) lashes. To profit from this omission from the sentence, the following conditions must be met:

On the other hand, Pharmaceutical products that are psychotropic or contain narcotic substances are defined by the Executive Role of Narcotics and Psychotropic’s Law issued with Royal Decree No. M/39 dated 8/7/1426 H. According to this Law, the following acts are considered criminal acts (Article 3):

As per article 37 of the Royal Decree No. M/39 dated 8/7/1426 H, the punishment of death will be applied to actions such as:

Nevertheless, the court may – for reasons it evaluates – reduce the death penalty to a prison sentence of no less than fifteen (15) years, with flogging that does not exceed fifty (50) lashes in each batch and a fine of no less than one hundred thousand riyals (SAR 100,000).

Article 38 of the Law stated that whoever possesses a narcotic substance, seeds, or a plant that produces production shall be punished by imprisonment for a period no less than five (5) years and not exceeding fifteen (15) years, with flogging not exceeding fifty (50) lashes each time, and a fine from one thousand to fifty thousand riyals (SAR 100,000- SAR 50,000).

Article 39 lays down that whoever possesses narcotics or psychotropic substances shall be punished by imprisonment for a period no less than two (2) years and not exceeding five (5) years, with the flogging of not more than fifty (50) lashes each time, and a fine of not less than three thousand riyals (SAR 3,000) and not exceeding thirty thousand riyals (SAR 30,000)

In conclusion, in Saudi Arabia, three (3) specialized hospitals have the required equipment and the most qualified and experienced medical, technical, and administrative staff. These three (3) hospitals are called “al-Amal Hospitals.” Furthermore, since 1995, the Self Support Programme takes care of the patients who have successfully been treated.


6. The United Arab Emirates

Like the other countries in the GCC region, the United Arab Emirates has a zero-tolerance policy for the recreational use of drugs. Because of that, we find Federal Law Number 14 of 1995 on the countermeasures against Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. In its article 7 stated that the procurement, import, export, manufacture, extraction, separation, production, possession, acquisition and abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances such as codeine, dihydrocodeine, ergot mushrooms, crow nest, cannabis, coca, amphetamine, pentazocine, diazepam, as well as all the other types of activities and acts in connection therewith shall be prohibited.

Nevertheless, the import or export of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are allowed with authorization to the following entities (Article 11):

Exchange in narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances may only be permitted after a written license is obtained from the Competent Administrative Authority in the UAE. The entity licensed to trade in narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances must employ a pharmacist to be responsible for these materials (Article 17-18).

Concerning the penalties, some of the disadvantages that the Law lays down:

Abu Dhabi Government focuses on solid familial ties, close bonding within family members, and parent’s responsibility to instil values in children to prevent people from abusing drugs. Additionally, National Rehabilitation Center (NRC) in Abu Dhabi researches issues related to drug abuse and offers rehabilitation and treatment to drug abusers. More info in this regard can be provided by a lawyer in Dubai.

On the other hand, The UAE is a signatory to several international conventions on narcotic and psychotropic substances. The conventions include applying internationally valid control measures to ensure that narcotic and psychotropic substances are not freely available to the non-expert. The treaties aim to: make narcotic and psychotropic substances obtainable only for medical and scientific purposes, prevent their diversion into illicit channels, eliminate drug trafficking and abuse.

In Abu Dhabi, a narcotic can be agreed upon only by a physician licensed by HAAD for an in-patient and must be written on the agreed narcotic preparation form. Private sector firms for out-patient narcotic supply are not frequently permissible. Though, exceptions will be considered following a request from a medical director. Furthermore, a psychotropic for an out-patient can be given only by a HAAD-licensed physician. There are specific requirements for the psychotropics known as CDa. These must be agreed on the official psychotropic preparation form. Now, there are UAE federal restrictions on the duration of prescription supply of CDa and CDb drugs, which depends upon the prescribing physician’s status.

Furthermore, ‘Tatmeen’ is a track-and-trace digital platform. It will use advanced serialization and tracing technology to track drugs from manufacture to end-use. It will allow tracking of pharma products through their journey in the supply chain. ‘Tatmeen’ will offer statistics on the origin of the products, safe to use, and validity through a unique, serialized 2-D matrix bar code. Consumers will be able to confirm the products at the point of purchase, thereby avoiding unapproved and counterfeit medicines. This will help control the circulation of fake or expired medical supplies and other unauthorized products. ‘Tatmeen’ was launched by the Ministry of Health and Prevention in September 2020. Its successful application can endorse trust and transparency in the supply chain of the healthcare product. ‘Tatmeen’ has the potential to fortify and secure the healthcare supply chains in the UAE.