As he smokes a Cigarette nonchalantly, Jasim a 24-year-old man describes his struggle with addiction. He says that sobriety seems so close, yet it’s so far.
On such a Saturday afternoon, he should be out at the beach with his peers, but he is at Choose, a rehab center in Kuwait. Jasim has had an extremely troubling past. He says that the abuse he experienced at home both physically and verbally didn’t leave him with a lot of choices. So, he opted out by running away from home. Eventually, he ended up with the wrong crowd. Within no time, he would be introduced to drugs.
At the age of 15, Jasim started using Tramadol, a prescription drug that is abused by many due to its euphoric and calming effects. Unfortunately, his love story with this drug was cut short when it was pulled out of the market.
In his quest to find a replacement, he started using heroin. He used whichever convenient method to get it into his bloodstream. This included snorting, smoking and injecting himself.
Jasim did not think that things could go haywire due to his newly found habit. In fact, this drug seemed like the perfect solution for all his problems. The encounter with drugs didn’t go as smoothly as he expected. In his 9 years of drug use, he has had 7 overdoses. Heroin was responsible for two of them.
Finally, Jasim decided his life would be much better without drugs, little did he know that he was about to face the most trying times of his entire life. The withdrawal symptoms were a nightmare. It felt as though someone mercilessly hammering nails into his legs.
Drug addiction has been on the rise in Kuwait, with a big number of people are grappling with it. In 2017, The Arab Times reported that drug addiction had risen by a worrying 25% since 2014. The drug problem in Kuwait isn’t new. Back in 2002, the New York Times reported that drug smuggling in Kuwait was increasing.
In the 1990s, smuggling 200 kg of Hashish in Kuwait was a big deal. Nevertheless, by the year 2001, the quantity of Hashish going to Kuwait had tremendously increased. It was estimated that 4000kg of Hashish was comfortably smuggled in Kuwait.
An operation that was carried out by the Drug Controls Department in 2017, left many people surprised. This department seized a huge drug consignment. It consisted of over 35000 grams of chemicals. Part of it was synthetic marijuana combined with Heroin and other numerous chemicals. These substances were worth a whopping $ 2.3 million dollars.
Noura who is now 26 years, successfully overcame addiction. Her drug of choice was a combination of different chemicals. She was not just using, but also profiting from the lucrative drug business in Kuwait. According to her, that is now water under the bridge. She is no longer participates in the drug business.
Her story is not much different from that of Jasim. She too grew up in an abusive family and drugs became her refuge. She sought comfort in drugs because they not only saved her from stress but also helped her put food on the table.
At just 20 years of age, Noura was flourishing into the illegal trade. Mostly she sold pills, hash, and weed. Once in a while she would sell the hard drugs, this included Heroin and Cocaine. Having been raised in abject poverty, this business was everything to her. In a good month, she would make over 25,000 Kuwaiti dinars.
One day while she was at home blowing some steam off with her favorite drug, something tragic happened. She found herself recuperating at the Choose addiction center after a drug overdose. That was four years ago. She recounts that moment as life-threatening. Luckily, something good came out of it because she turned her life around.
In 2015, a BMC public health report was released. The report ranked drug overdose the 3rd highest cause of accidental deaths in Kuwait. According to the report, more men had died from a drug overdosed more than women in a span of 6 years. Kuwait had lost more lives than non-Kuwaitis. These were young people, mostly between the ages of 29-39.
The founder of Choose, Monah Al Yatamah says that the drug problem is fuelled by the fact that drugs are easily available. As her organization strives to raise more awareness, there is still a lot that needs to be done.
Drug addicts in Kuwait don’t go to the hospital after an overdose. This is because they are afraid of being taken to the national mental facility where treatment for drugs is supposed to be administered. Furthermore, Kuwait is known to be a conservative country where people with mental problems experience a high degree of stigma. For this reason, drug addicts chose to suffer in silence.
Choose is offering hope to drug addicts in the country. What is more important is that it is doing this with much-needed confidentiality. Therefore, it has become a safe haven for most addicts who are trying to turn their life around.