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There is hope for drug addicts


By Dorcus Akeyo

An addict, any addict, with the desire to stop using drugs, can stop using them, can lose the desire to use them, and can find a new way of life through Narcotics Anonymous,’’ says the Narcotics Anonymous fellowship that helps addicts lead a new life after abusing drugs.

The group echoes the theme of NACADA for 2005-2006, that offers a statement of hope to addicts. It states; ‘’Addicted? There is a way out.’ According to Dr. Richard Gakunju a Clinical Pharmacist and Mrs. Theresa Seccoli of Red Hill Rehabilitation Centre, drug addiction is a disease as addicts are patients who require treatment and not condemnation.

‘’Addiction is a psychological, social, physical and chronic disease that inhibits the body’s ability to control itself and even function normally,’’ says Mrs. Seccoli adding, ‘’Anybody can become ill yet no one is responsible for their illness, but you can take care of your illness.’’

However, she agrees that many addicts fail to make positive adjustments in their lives because they live in a state of self-denial. For an individual who cannot accept his inadequacy and inability to change his self there is very little anyone can do for him or her.

When addicts hit rock button the experience helps them come to their senses and since there is no way beyond the rock the only way out is groping to the surface again. It is at this point according to Seccoli that the society could help them including family members. The addict therefore, experiences a void and a hostile world around him. For instance schools expel addicts, prisons enclose drug abusers and parents who cannot manage addicted children send them to approved schools.

The vacuum addicts experience in their struggle to quit and reform has to be replaced by looking for strength in a power that is beyond them.

It is with this observation that the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) fellowship which is a worldwide movement comprising recovering addicts helps addicts to clean themselves up spiritually. Spirituality, the movement says has nothing to do with religion but all to do with a superior being that has power to help the addict change. They agree that looking to a source more powerful than them heals spiritually and grants ability to control the cravings. Addicts believe in themselves as gods and that they are powerful, great and perfect. Everything they do is meant to demonstrate their super human ability. Therefore, recognizing someone else as being above them helps humble their ego. It makes them realise their wrongs and be sorry.

The serenity prayer that they recite over and again that God helps them change what they can and accept what they cannot change makes them accept their status as addicts who need help to become clean. It also appeals to their patience in the struggle to recovery.

NA was founded in 1953 but came to in Kenya in 1995 and has managed to offer six meetings per week in Nairobi.

The fellowship meets at Nairobi Youth Hostel on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturday evenings and at Nairobi Hospital on Friday. Another meeting is held at Brookroom Westlands, General Mathenge drive. All meetings are in the evenings from about 4.00 to 7.30 pm.

The joy of the fellowship is seeing someone join their fold. In this struggle to access others they have developed literature to help their members stay clean with an active mobile line 0723-353385 to help fellow addicts in the country, to attend meetings and be helped to clean up.

According to NA the addicts are welcome to become members regardless of the substance they are addicted to. The services offered are also free.

‘’Our fellowship is concerned with the disease of addiction and recovery from that disease, the drug or drugs of choice is unimportant’’ they say.

The method of treatment is simply spiritually oriented. They go through twelve stages, which include admitting that they are addicted, powerless over the addiction and need a power greater than them to restore them to sanity. they also decide to turn their will and lives over to God, making a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves. They then ask God to remove their shortcomings. Listing all persons harmed by their addicted behaviour as well as being willing to make amendments is also one of the healing processes. The members have to admit wrongdoing and improve conscious contact with God through meditation and prayer for knowledge of God’s will for them.

The addicts also need support from the entire society as Poet John Donne once noted when he said ‘no man is an island entire of itself’. Mrs. Theresa Seccoli advices that those hurt by the addict’s activities should be willing to forgive those recovering from addiction and let go. Helping them fit in society can make them productive assets.

Seccoli decries the attitude of society and despite WHO classifying addiction as a disease, the Kenyan society looks at addicts as social misfits, criminals with decayed morals who deserve to be behind bars. In deed addicts’ activities edge on criminal offences. The recovering addicts admit that addicts can be irrational and capable of heinous acts such as defilement of minors and rape. They can also steal, rob and even snatch handbags just to be able to afford their supply of drugs.

On the Kenyan scene where 80% of the youths aged 10-24 years are abusing drugs, 1,059,000 of this percentage are abusing cannabis sativa, a remedy is urgently needed before a future generation is destroyed. Dr. Gakunju observes that the brain develops from 0-25 years of ones’ lifespan. At 25 years one is expected to have fully developed brains and as such drugs interfere with the formation. They kill parts of the brain, yet it is not possible to grow new brain and nerve cell after quitting drug abuse. The destroyed faculties cannot be replaced, as they do not regenerate. In addition, destroyed neurons through drug abuse cannot be replaced.

According to Joseph Kaguthi the National Co-ordinator for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse and chairman of NACADA, 29,600 students are abusing drugs while over 464,000 are on alcohol.

However, he confirmed efforts of NACADA in conjunction with Educationists to curb the negative trend in students. Over 240,000 teachers have been trained in prevention of drug abuse and a curriculum on drug abuse prevention has been introduced in training curricula for teachers under training in Colleges and Universities.

All not lost, NACADA hopes for the establishment of a National Drug Control Authority by an Act of parliament. This is a legislation that would see concerted efforts of the government in eradicating drug abuse.

Kaguthi also decries lack of standards and regulations in regard to establishment of rehabilitation centres for the addicted. He says that government run rehabilitation centres spread countrywide would be the best solution for addicts treatment. He looks forwards to a time when the government would allocate resources for addiction treatment and rehabilitation facilities.

On the other hand Dr. Gakunju is wary of lack of enforcement of laws on over the counter sale of prescription drugs. He noted that drugs such as Actifed Syndol and others containing codeine as well as drugs with anti-histamine, which are addictive, are sold over the counter.

While NACADA and the government play their part in drug abuse prevention, the community also has a role in the addict’s life. Mrs. Seccoli the rehabilitation expert warns that no addict can be forced to give up the drug. He has to be willing to quit. She says no amount of moralizing or losing ones temper can help the addict. Instead her advice is that when we discover that a relative or child is addicted we should accept the reality of the matter, seek knowledge about the drug and let them access it besides seeking competent drug treatment from competent sources.

Seccoli says we should never panic nor let the addict control our own behaviour. Prayer for spiritual intervention is also allowed but we should never force them into hospitals without motivating them to willingly take the choice. The worst we can do is to sit and watch. We have to do something about the situation with a lot of patience as there are no shortcuts. The greatest weapon in winning the war is understanding the addict and making him feel loved and wanted.

For the addict, Dr. Gakunju says they must first accept that they have a problem and be determined to change. Rehabilitation and treatment could take long and there is a tendency of relapse or residual effect. In the case of residual effect the active substance of abuse, which remains stored in the fatty parts of the body, comes to surface later making the person behave as he/she used to when he was still on drugs.

The good news is that there is clinical treatment involving cleansing or detoxification, which can help the individual. Relapse where a patient goes back to drug abuse is restrained through fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous where members draw strength and support from each other.



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Revised: 11/06/07

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