Palestinian Children’s Experiences of Drug Abuse in the Home in the Occupied Territories of Palestine: a Scoping Review of Extant Literature


The Occupied Territories of Palestine (OtP) consists of the non-contiguous West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Its dense population with political and economic tensions is affected by a rise in drug trafficking, abuse and addiction. A scoping review mapped what is known about Palestinian children’s experiences of drug abuse in the home. Following application of exclusion measures, six records remained. Charting and analysis resulted in three themes: the consequences of being a child with a drug-using parent, causal factors of drug use in Palestinian families and prevalence rates of parental drug use are unknown. The review paints a concerning picture of stigma, family dysfunction, school drop-out, child and family isolation and maladaptive child development. Exposure to drugs, trauma and abuse contributes to strong potential for Palestinian child drug use, sexual exploitation, overdose, psychiatric illness and infectious disease acquisition. The review will inform the urgent strategic response.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1


  1. Abdeen, Z., Qasrawi, R., Nabil, S., & Shaheen, M. (2008). Psychological reactions to Israeli occupation: Findings from the national study of school-based screening in Palestine. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 32(4), 290–297.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Arksey, H., & O’Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Damiri, B. R., Isra’A, S., & Aghbar, M. H. (2018a). Pattern of substance use among school children in Palestine: a cross-sectional study. Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 8(1), 59.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Damiri, B., Sayeh, W., Odeh, M., & Musmar, H. (2018b). Drug use and possession, emerging of new psychoactive substances in the West Bank, Palestine. Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 8(1), 42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Daudt, H. M. L., van Mossel, C., & Scott, S. J. (2013). Enhancing the scoping study methodology: a large, inter-professional team’s experience with Arksey and O’Malley’s framework. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 13(1), 48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Defense for Children International/Palestine Section (2006). Trends of educational counselors on child abuse: field study in schools of the Palestinian National Authority. Retrieved from [last accessed on March 11th, 2019].

  7. Defense for Children International/Palestine Section (2007). Children in street: the Palestinian case. Retrieved from [last accessed on March 9th, 2019].

  8. Garbarino, J., & Kostelny, K. (1996). The effects of political violence on Palestinian children’s behavior problems: a risk accumulation model. Child Development, 67(1), 33–45.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Giacaman, R., Khatib, R., Shabaneh, L., Ramlawi, A., Sabri, B., Sabatinelli, G., Khawaja, M., & Laurance, T. (2009). Health status and health services in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Lancet, 373(9666), 837–849.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Giacaman, R., Rabaia, Y., Nguyen-Gillham, V., Batniji, R., Punamäki, R.-L., & Summerfield, D. (2011). Mental health, social distress and political oppression: the case of the occupied Palestinian territory. Global Public Health, 6(5), 547–559.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Glick, P., Al Khammash, U., Shaheen, M., Brown, R., Goutam, P., Karam, R., et al. (2018). Health risk behaviours of Palestinian youth: findings from a representative survey. EMHJ-Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 24(02), 127–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Horton, R. (2009). The occupied Palestinian territory: peace, justice, and health. The Lancet, 373(9666), 784–788.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Jawad, M., Khader, A., & Millett, C. (2016). Differences in tobacco smoking prevalence and frequency between adolescent Palestine refugee and non-refugee populations in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank: cross-sectional analysis of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey. Conflict and Health, 10(1), 20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Khalil, H., Peters, M., Godfrey, C. M., McInerney, P., Soares, C. B., & Parker, D. (2016). An evidence-based approach to scoping reviews. Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, 13(2), 118–123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Khdour, M. R., Hallak, H. O., Alayasa, K. S. A., AlShahed, Q. N., Hawwa, A. F., & McElnay, J. C. (2011). Extent and nature of unlicensed and off-label medicine use in hospitalised children in Palestine. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, 33(4), 650–655.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Levac, D., Colquhoun, H., & O’Brien, K. K. (2010). Scoping studies: advancing the methodology. Implementation Science, 5(1), 69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Mahamid, F. A. M., Rihani, S. T., & Berte, D. Z. (2015). Expressive group counseling as a model for increasing self-awareness to reduce trauma symptoms experienced by children in Palestine. International Journal of Psychology and Counselling, 7(8), 112–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Massad, S. G., Shaheen, M., Karam, R., Brown, R., Glick, P., Linnemay, S., & Khammash, U. (2016). Substance use among Palestinian youth in the West Bank, Palestine: a qualitative investigation. BMC Public Health, 16(1), 800.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Murphy, D. A. (2016). A parenting and self-care intervention for substance-using mothers: promoting resilience among Israeli and Palestinian people. Mental Health and Addiction Care in the Middle East, 59–80.

  20. Palestinian National Institute of Public Health (2017a). Estimating the extent of illicit drug use in Palestine. Retrieved from [lasts accessed on March 11th, 2019].

  21. Palestinian National Institute of Public Health (2017b). Illicit drug use in Palestine. Retrieved from [last accessed on March 11th, 2019].

  22. Peters, M. D. J., Godfrey, C. M., Khalil, H., McInerney, P., Parker, D., & Soares, C. B. (2015). Guidance for conducting systematic scoping reviews. International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare, 13(3), 141–146.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Ramahi, S. (2014). The scourge of drugs in Jerusalem. Middle East Monitor. Retrieved from [last accessed on March 2nd, 2019].

  24. Shani, A. (2017). Gaza kids live in hell: a psychologist tells of rampant sexual abuse, drugs and despair. Haaretz Newspaper. Retrieved from [ last accessed on March 11th, 2019].

  25. Sharek (2008). The youth talk. Perceptions of Palestinian youth on their living conditions. In: Sharek Youth Forum. Ramallah. Palestine.

  26. Štulhofer, A., Chetty, A., Rabie, R. A., Jwehan, I., & Ramlawi, A. (2012). The prevalence of HIV, HBV, HCV, and HIV-related risk-taking behaviors among Palestinian injecting drug users in the East Jerusalem Governorate. Journal of Urban Health, 89(4), 671–676.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Sweileh, W. M., Arafat, R. T., Al-Khyat, L. S., Al-Masri, D. M., & Jaradat, N. A. (2004). A pilot study to investigate over-the-counter drug abuse and misuse in Palestine. Saudi Medical Journal, 25(12), 2029–2032.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Thabet, A. A. M., & Dajani, J. K. (2012). Substance abuse among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Arab Journal of Psychological Science, 36, 76–78.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Tricco, A. C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O’Brien, K., Colquhoun, H., Kastner, M., et al. (2016). A scoping review on the conduct and reporting of scoping reviews. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 16(1), 15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2019). Independent evaluation of PSEY13. Supporting the establishment of evidence-based drug dependence treatment and rehabilitation system for the Palestine National Rehabilitation Centre. Retrieved from [last accessed on March 9th, 2019].

  31. Waterston, T., & Nasser, D. (2017). Access to healthcare for children in Palestine. BMJ Paediatrics Open, 1(1), e000115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This study received funding support from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Small Grants Scheme 2019 (Grant holder: Professor Marie Claire Van Hout).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mayyada Wazaify.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Van Hout, M.C., Al-Afifi, M.F., Abushams, L. et al. Palestinian Children’s Experiences of Drug Abuse in the Home in the Occupied Territories of Palestine: a Scoping Review of Extant Literature. Int J Ment Health Addiction 18, 1572–1585 (2020).

Download citation


  • Alcohol
  • Children
  • Drugs
  • Gaza
  • Jerusalem
  • Palestine
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Substance abuse
  • West Bank