Drug Addiction in the Camps: An Accumulation of Causes
*Palestinian journalist. Member of “The Palestinian Media Collective in Lebanon “Interact”.
A.N. suffered a setback at a crucial time in his life. Seven years ago, he graduated from the university with a Bachelor of Computer Science but could not find a job in his major. He says that his parents took loans to pay the university fees and expenses, and till now, they have not been able to pay back these loans. He settled in the camp streets instead of sitting in front of computer screens, and because he had no job, he was not able to keep the girl he loves whom he had promised to marry once he graduated. He became addicted to different kinds of alcohol and drugs. According to his own words, he was trying to escape reality and forget what happened to him. He tried several times to beat his addiction, especially after his health deteriorated, but he was not able to. He said: “I tried several times, but I did not have the guts to go to a rehab center because that would destroy my reputation or my parents’. Besides, I could not afford the treatment bills”.
This young man, who is almost thirty, did not find a role model who could understand him and guide him to start a new life. He confirms that he does not turn down any request for help in computer matters and repairs. This brings him some money every now and then, so he can buy the drug that allows him to “lift his mood.”
Some civil associations are active in helping drug addicts. “Insan” Association in Burj al-Barajneh camp, south of Beirut, is one of them. It was established in 2013 thanks to individual efforts and initial financial support from the Palestinian embassy. Per Dr. Reda Al-Khafaji, a medical doctor at Insan: “The center lacks adequate funding. It receives patients of all nationalities, and since it was open, about 500 cases were treated confidentially to maintain patients’ privacy. After all, they are just victims.”
The center provides treatment in three stages: The detox phase, during which the body is cleared from the substance, followed by the second stage, which consists of psychological and behavioral treatment. The third stage is consecrated for self-development. The center has 13 treatment beds, a gym, and a library. It also offers several activities, including craftsman workshops, and art and music lessons.
Drug addict for 22 years!
Drug addict for 22 years!
Based on his experience at the center which allowed him to examine the circumstances that would drive Palestinians to get addicted to drugs, Al Khafagi attributed the matter to poverty and unemployment among youth, in addition to the camp environment where drugs are available and easy to procure, along with having addict friends and the desire to try the substance. The doctor speaks bitterly about some cases that were treated and recovered but went back to drugs because there was no change in their lives, in terms of employment, or ease of access to drugs. Besides calling to support the center, the doctor is asking that job opportunities be provided for the youth and that this scourge is addressed seriously.
According to Al Khafaji, there were exceptional cases that the center could not receive, given the privacy and the complexity of the situation, and due to a shortage of capacities. Many patients were not able to tolerate long term treatment. As for the categories admitted to the center, treatment was not limited to males; there were several cases of girls and married women.
S. S, born in 1983, is receiving treatment at the center. He has been addicted for twenty-two years and has tried all types of drugs. He sought Insan’s help for treatment when he decided to have a better life. His treatment lasted for one year and four months, of which he spent three months inside the center, then pursued his treatment as an outpatient. He is now married and has two children and is currently working as a taxi driver. He remembers how he would beg people he crossed to give him the money to buy hallucinogenic pills. He was despised by his parents. Today, he expresses his remorse and is grateful to those who helped him, particularly the center. He said that his drug addiction originated by the desire to try something that, from what he heard, takes him to another world.
M.H is 20 years old and has had a long-term treatment of hallucinogens (Tramadol, Xanax), but has fallen back into addiction. He attributed his relapse to the fact that his body changed after treatment, but not his life. He says that “Palestinians want job opportunities or the opportunity to travel abroad. I have no job, and I cannot travel, so I travel thanks to the pills to the places of my dreams”. He adds that acquiring pills is not difficult. They are cheap if bought from dealers, and some pharmacies even sell these types of pills without a doctor’s prescription.
The Treatment is “Secure and Legal”
UNRWA does not provide treatment for addicts, nor does it have the means and vision to do so. However, local and international civil organizations are trying to provide treatment for an unknown number of addicts in the Palestinian camps. Furthermore, the Palestinian factions have always declared their willingness to treat any addict. The Palestinian national security chief in Lebanon, major general Soubhi Abu Arab, says that “they will provide free and immediate treatment for any addict who wants to receive confidential treatment.” However, treatment of addiction in the camps requires, first and foremost, getting rid of the causes, so that the numbers of abusers, addicts, and traffickers do not increase. This is what the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee demanded in January when it called for “fighting drugs in camps through two paths: The first is security. The Palestinian factions were requested to intensify their efforts in coordination with the Lebanese security services to arrest traffickers and dealers and hand them over to the Lebanese authorities. The second through the adoption of laws that make the lives of Palestinians easier, in addition to intensifying joint efforts with the UNRWA and the popular committees in the camps.