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Mombasa’s recovering drug addicts speak

Recovering drug addict Neema Saidi

These men and women have taken bold steps to fight their addictions and today they are budding advocates for a drugs-free society.

They speak with sadness about the jobs they lost and the relatives who ran away from them when they got addicted to drugs. But now they are all hopeful of regaining their free thanks to a State-sponsored rehabilitation programme.

Evans Moi, 34, has been on a Government and donor-sponsored Medical Assisted Theraphy (MAT) programme through which methadone has been administered daily since last year.

Methadone reduces the withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs.

“This is a welcome relief for us as we are keen to abandon our old ways,” he said.

Mr Moi is quick to point out that a recent delay in having the drug administered exposed them to an ordeal they would like to forget fast.

“We missed the drug for a day and then when we got it, the amount was reduced. Some of us missed out completely and it was not a good experience at all,” said Moi during an interview at Makaburini in Frere Town.

Makaburini is a public cemetery where the recovering addicts meet to give each other support.

First client

Neema Saidi, another recovering addict, was the first client to be put on methadone and proudly goes by the code ‘Addict 001’.

“I abused marijuana and then injected myself for eight years after being persuaded by a colleague who was on drugs,” she said.

Ms Saidi, a school drop out, started taking drugs to “run away” from myriad family problems.

“When you start abusing drugs, it is a joy but later it becomes troublesome and you are forced to do bad things to get drugs. It is not a cheap undertaking given that you require about Sh200 per day,” Saidi added.

She considers herself lucky as most of the addicts she associated with are either dead or in jail.

But despite making remarkable progress, Saidi says many former addicts continue to face discrimination.

“No one likes to be associated with people known to have been violent, dirty and involved in petty offences like thefts and burglaries,” she said.

For Ashraf Reje, life in the fast lane in oil-rich Qatar, where he worked as a fitness instructor with Dhukan Fitness Club for Qatari Petroleum, would turn out to be his undoing.

“I had loads of cash at my disposal. During one of my annual leaves, I travelled back home and started partying heavily,” he said.

That was when he was introduced to hard drugs.

“We want to live normal lives just like President Uhuru Kenyatta and our Governor Hassan Joho, and are on road to full recovery,” said Mr Reje.

He speaks fondly of his parents, who he says have fought hard to support him.

“My parents have been my biggest inspiration. Without a stable job, my parents have been taking care of my wife and children while I find my footing,’’ he said.

Found solace

John Richard, 53, is arguably the oldest in the group. He lost everything, including his own family and friends, thanks to drugs.

“My immediate family, including my nine children, want nothing to do with me. I have found solace in methadone and I am on my way to becoming a drug-free man,’’ said Mr Richard, a former clerk.

Musfira Mohamed, 34, divorced her first husband, who introduced her to drugs, and remarried while undergoing methadone medication.

“I abused drugs for 13 years and when I learnt about the Government initiative to put addicts on special medication, I volunteered readily. And here I am today,’’ she said.

According to Mahad Hassan, a pharmacist and the officer in charge of the Frere Town MAT clinic, a countrywide shortage of methadone had led to rationing of doses.

“But we received adequate supplies that will last up to 2018,” he said, adding that in the absence of methadone, recovery addicts are given a drug called codeine, which acts just like methadone.

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