Mohammed Zaatari| The Daily Star
SIDON, Lebanon: In the hallways of the Civil Council against Addiction in the southern city of Sidon, Karim refuses to be photographed. Off camera, he speaks at length about how he beat his dependence on drugs.
Hasan, another addict, shares Karim’s preference for staying out of the public eye.
“Lebanese society is ruthless and, if it was known, we would not be able to find a job after recovery,” he said.
CCAA welcomes addicts and helps them throughout their recovery, whether their problems are physical, psychological or legal.
According to CCAA’s statistics, 48 percent of admitted addicts were Palestinian, 45 were Lebanese and 7 percent were of other nationalities. Fifty-eight percent took pills and did heroin and 41 percent did not finish middle school.
Most of the center’s patients are young people – as young as 15 – some students, others workers.They are both male and female and come from across the social divide.
“Addiction doesn’t distinguish between the poor and the rich,” the council’s executive director Majid Hamatto said.
The son of a middle-class family, Karim blamed the free time he had on his hands for pushing him to experiment with drugs. “I was sure of myself; I used to say that it’s just for fun,” said Karim, who is the second of four sons.
“I went on enjoying [drugs], I got addicted to it and my life changed.”
While Karim’s family tried to help him overcome his addiction, he struggled for 18 months, during which he increased his drug intake.
“I started stealing money from my father’s jacket in order to fulfill my addiction until I found myself in the hospital,” said Karim, who began his treatment nine months ago.“My life changed when the doctor told me that I had been thrown on a roadside, and I had peed in my pants.”
Hasan, on the other hand, comes from an impoverished background, which he said can easily compel someone to drug use.
Despite excelling as a craftsman, the hardships of making a living intensified as he began surrounding himself with friends who often did drugs.
“I was running away from the troubles of life by first smoking cigarettes, which made me feel like I owned the world,” he said.
“So I moved from cigarettes to pills and soon I started injecting myself with poison.”
The need to feel the pleasures of heroin again forced Hasan to sell his property and his mother’s jewelry.
Once he even sold his family’s gas canister.
“What pushed me to stop, to receive treatment and come to this center was when the health of one of my friends, who used to mentor me, deteriorated and he got sick,” Hasan said.
“He needed blood, so I went to the laboratory to donate mine,” he said. “But the nurse couldn’t draw my blood because all of my veins had been destroyed.”
The death of Hasan’s friend made him feel immensely guilty. “I swore that I would never to go back to addiction and here I am healing.”
The CCAA provides counseling, guidance, treatment and rehabilitation for drug addicts through its own Social Preventive Center.
A team of professionals help addicts restore a regular lifestyle, building their confidence, developing their skills and helping them find jobs.
Patients’ families also participate in the center’s activities. The SPC communicates with them through regular sessions and keeps them up to date about their children’s cases.
From January 2013 to December 2014, 102 addicts between ages 17 and 49 participated in the center’s services. Fifteen patients were admitted to hospitals to receive detox treatment.
In addition to conducting laboratory drug testings, the center also conducts free tests for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.
The SPC, which offers a 24/7 hotline service, deals with addicts in a humane way and respects each patient’s privacy.
The center also helps addicts serving time in Lebanese prisons by coordinating with judicial authorities to speed up their cases and assisting them find the right treatment. So far, the center has been following 12 cases.
According to the Internal Security Force’s unit of drug-related crimes, 458 individuals were arrested in 2014 for offenses related to using, smuggling, dealing or promoting drugs.
Nearly 400 males and 10 females were arrested for either dealing cannabis, heroin, cocaine, narcotic pills or a combination of substances. Of the 3,587 drug-related arrests in the country last year, 2,806 were Lebanese nationals.
Hamatto explained that treatment expenses were too high for most patients to handle and there was a huge reliance on the community to shoulder the costs.
The minimum cost for each patient is around $2,000, Hamatto said, primarily because of the high cost of medication.
“The goal is to involve local society to help and contribute to cover the patient’s recovery expenses,”Hamatto said.
“This is why a huge part of the treatment is based on donations from local society.”
– See more at: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2015/Jan-31/285924-sidons-drug-rehabilitation-center-caters-to-vulnerable-youth.ashx#sthash.o7fYsRoO.dpuf