Ahmed Mohammed (not real name) has gone to the Drug Rehabilitation Center (DRC) in Himmafushi more than four times to escape from heroin, a type of drug. But each time after returning he goes back to the bad habit. In other words he relapses. What's the reason for this?
DRC marked its 10th Anniversary this year. During the early days, the relapse rate was coming down year to year, and was noted to be particularly low during 2006 and 2007. But things have changed this year. The relapse rate has gone up.
Research conducted by donor agencies has shown that one in three Maldivians uses some type of drug. This is a record level in global terms.
There are many reasons why people go back to the habit after treatment, a counselor at the National Narcotics Control Bureau says. "The biggest problem is the Maldivian environment. Each island is small. No island is free of drug availability. So, after treatment one has to go back to the same den of drugs. In other countries one can shift to an area free of such danger. They have that opportunity. But we don't have that opportunity in the Maldives," the counselor who wishes to remain anonymous said.
Another counselor in DRC says that the rehabilitation program does not get sufficient attention from all government agencies. "This is the biggest and most serious problem facing the nation. But we don't get enough cooperation from all the agencies," the counselor says. "This year alone government budget has allocated more than 50 million rufiyaa to DRC and other rehabilitation centers in Addu and Fuvahmulah. But things are getting worse because enough work is not being done."
In a report released after visiting DRC, Human Rights Commission of Maldives has noted that there is no qualified psychiatrist in the Center. This is a serious issue because many of the young people who go into drugs do so because of inability to cope with psychological problems they face in their adolescence; they take the easy way out and take solace in drugs.
After taking treatment in DRC for about 9 months, having to spend about 11 months in community rehabilitation in Male is also noted to be a reason why many people relapse. During community rehabilitation clients report to the NNCB and give urine samples. The purpose is to identify clients who relapse during the 11 months and send them back to DRC.
If one needs to do community rehabilitation outside Male, one has to go to an island where an NNCB rehabilitation center exists such as Addu and Fuvahmulah. Otherwise, for the whole 11 months clients will have to remain in Male. They cannot take jobs elsewhere and need special permission to go out of Male.
"During the 9 months of treatment in DRC a client is detoxified and is free from physical addiction. What he needs after that is psychological satisfaction. Care from the family. Work to earn money and build life again," a young man from Alif Dhaalu Atoll, who is in community rehabilitation said. "Those who want to stop drugs will remain clean. So when you put restrictions on those who want to remain clean it creates problems. They lose the opportunity to get jobs and family support. When one has to remain idle in Male like this one gets tempted."
Many addicts are not that educated and because of restrictions on going out of Male during the 11 months of community rehabilitation, they find it difficult to get jobs in resorts and safaris. Since many of them are from other islands, they find it difficult to stay in Male, some even sleeping in boats in the harbor.
Lacking trust from the community, many addicts find it difficult to rebuild their lives. Difficulty in getting jobs in the private sector is one of the most serious problems. Thus finding the way ahead blocked, addicts just give up and go back to drugs.
"Private employers don't give jobs to addicts. So the government must show a way to them. If addicts don't get jobs in the private sector the government must take care of them and give them jobs; prevent them from going back to drugs," a member of SWAD and mother of an addict says.
From DRC to the community, recovering addicts face problems. Many people believe that the return on government expenditure on drugs is low. A lot of reform is required in several areas to change the situation.
[*Translated from original article in Haveeru Daily: http://www.haveeru.com.mv/?page=details&id=76612&category=cTrOpir]