KHARTOUM (SUDANOW) – Hayat (Life) Center is the first integrated center in Sudan for treatment and rehabilitation of narcotics addicts. In an interview to SUDANOW, the Director of Hayat Center Ustazah Rehab Hussein Shabo, shed light on the Center and the important role it plays in curbing addiction:
SUDANOW: When was the idea of the Center cropped up and how was it established?
Shabo: The idea fermented in the minds for a long time and afterwards the Social Studies Center where I was working sponsored an initiative for establishment of a national anti-narcotics network, starting with a programme of awareness, consultancy and training of the youth sectors and other organizations. Then there arose the possibility of finding treatment facilities other than the existing specialized psychiatric hospitals of Tigani Al-Mahi, Taha Ba’asher and Abdul Aal Al-Idrissy. There was no integrated center for addiction treatment within Sudan and only the well-off can travel abroad to Jordan or Egypt, for instance, seeking treatment but, unfortunately, many of the addicts who return home from the treatment experience setbacks, something which is part of the addiction nature. Many families approach us to treat their kids from addiction and, for this reason, the concerned institutions joined forces for building the Center.
The Center was officially inaugurated last September and on the very next day we received the first patient, demonstrating how urgent the Center was.
Q: What services does the Center offer?
A: The Center offers services of treatment of addicts of narcotics, liquors and other mentally harmful factors. It offers medical treatment services as well as rehabilitation and reintegration programmes which take a long time in order to avert setbacks. The addict usually arrives at the Center on his own will for treatment and is usually supported by members of his family and persons around him. He may respond to the treatment after a short period but the problem is that he arrives at the Center when his addiction reaches a point that, in addition to the medical treatment, requires psychological and social interventions with participation by the family members until he recovers.
Q: What do you think are the reasons behind the recent increase in the rate of addicts of narcotics in Sudan?
A: I must say once more that the problem is almost world-wide rather than the Sudan alone. The easy access to different kinds of narcotics may be one reason for getting involved in the habit. Sometimes the youths resort to the medical drugs which are used for treatment of certain diseases after discovering, that taking them in large quantities, they will cause a state of relaxation and ultimate addiction after repeated consumption of those drugs. There are also economic problems, which include unemployment, in addition to the globalization of the modern media of communication and the different satellite channels and the displayed scenes which encourage taking up narcotics. In the past, movie films and serials were selected in a proper way to be seen in a group by all members of the family, but now the channels, for instance, depict a prominent personality consuming liquors or narcotics, keeping such substances in the corner of his home bar and sipping the liquors at home with his friends in an unpretentious way that makes the youths look at it as a social grandeur and complementary to a youthful personality.
Q: The narcotics traffickers concentrate on the youths, while women have of late joined the addicts wave. What’s your comment on this?
A: Yes, this is true and the reason for this are the vividness, vitality and eagerness by the youths to trying every new thing, add to this their unawareness of the consequences of getting into the habit of addiction. The traffickers also target active youths who maintain wide social relations to recruit them for distribution of narcotics among their youth friends. Then, regretfully surfaced the woman addicts, particularly in the universities, for the same reasons of the male youths, including the evil girl-friends, the desire in experimentation, imitation and, most important, the poor family supervision.
Q: How can it be decided that a person has become an addict?
A: This differs according to the kind and quantity of the substance and the manner in which the person uses it. Some kinds cause addiction if one of them is used once or twice, others take a week and yet other kinds require a longer period of time. The most wide-spread kinds are the stimulating pills, shashmandi, hashish (bongo) and liquors. The heroin and cocaine are less spread because of their high prices and the traffickers, seeking profits, deal in cheaper kinds like hashish and shashmandi which is smuggled from neighboring countries.
Q: What are the symptoms of addiction and what is the role of the family in identifying those symptoms?
A: The family plays a major role in following and monitoring their sons and daughters for detection of the changes which are caused by consumption of the narcotics. Those symptoms are very simple and they include much sleeping or unjustifiably staying awake, excessive nervousness, aggressiveness, reddened eyes, poor concentration or unorganized speech and other signs which the families can observe by browsing the internet websites and continued monitoring of the children and their friends who are not relatives of the family.
Q: What are the stages does the Center goes through for assisting the patient for recovery?
A: We have an internal treatment and rooms prepared in a way that suits the patient, the kind of the narcotic and the period of consuming it. This is determined by the psychologist who undertakes the treatment and who is the first person to welcome the patient in the Center. The patient is then taken to the laboratory for examination and for determination of the kind and quantity of the narcotic in the body. The patient remains in the Center for 30 to 35 days which is the longest period a Sudanese can afford to stay due to the impatience of the Sudanese, in addition to other factors, whereas the required period sometimes extends to three months abroad. There is the period of pumping poisons from the body which is two weeks, then comes the most important stage of rehabilitation which is undertaken by the psychologist and the sociologist who are responsible for ridding the addict from the hallucination and illusive feelings he has been experiencing in sessions that take a long period of time so as to make sure that no setback would occur after the recovery. The patient may be outside the Center and report for the sessions which are three times a week, consisting of a psychological treatment and religious guidance.
Q: To what extent is the Center accepted by the public?
A: Thanks to Allah that numerous cases of addiction have been treated despite the short period of operation of the relatively new Center. The extent of acceptability is not bad although we were looking for more, which, in any way, does not mean we are wishing an increase in the number of addicts. However, we wish the patient would come to the Center either by himself or in the company his family when he starts taking the narcotic rather than in delayed stages because it much easier to treat a beginner than an addict.
Q: Do you charge remuneration for the services of the Center?
A: Yes. Usually we do, but in some cases the patient is exempted from the fees if his financial status shows that he cannot pay those fees. We have to secure financial revenue for continuity of the services of the Center and for observing the participatory principle so that the families are aware of the value of the service we provide for their kids and the need for their treatment.
Q: What is the role of the community in dealing with the patient before and after the treatment?
A: A person is driven by some factors into trying the narcotics unconsciously, for instance he is misled by his friends that the pills would make more active and energetic for staying awake for revision of his lessons; or he may experience some economic difficulties. The community should not cast him aside but, on the contrary, should accept him until he recovers. He will thus be in a position to persuade his friends to go to the Center and get treated. We have here, for example, a former addict who three months ago brought two of his friends, with whom he used to have narcotic sessions, to the Center for treatment.
Q: What are the recently reported digital narcotics and how can a person get addicted to them?
A: Until now we have not received any such case and no consultant or specialist has come across any digital narcotics addict.
Q: Don’t you think that contribution by formal bodies and security organs to the establishment of the Center would make the patients hesitate in coming for treatment?
A: Several institutions have contributed to the establishment of the Center out of the participatory principle and social responsibility. The participation by the security and police authorities was necessitated by the impact of narcotics on the national security, both internally and externally. In this context, the National Amal Hospital (of the Security apparatus) provided the Center with medical devices and an ambulance. I assure you that we strictly observe the principle of privacy and confidentiality in dealing with the patients. All personnel of the Center are highly professional and deal with the cases only from a medical stand-point without concerning themselves with any historic background or other information about the patient.
Q: Do you have relations of cooperation with similar regional and international centers?
A: Yes. We have well established ties in the field of training and rehabilitation and, as a new center, we have received the first training offer from the United Arab Emirates National Center for Rehabilitation by Arab and foreign doctors and specialists. We are now planning to sign a memorandum of understanding with that center in the coming period. Moreover, we maintain cooperation with the Rehabilitation Center of the State of Qatar which possesses high qualified personnel and which has provided us with a substantial support in the domain of training of practical courses for specialists who treat addicts and solve their personal problems.
Q: What are the outstanding challenges which confront you in running the Center?
A: The training.. I emphasize the training. We are in dire need for training of the personnel who are extremely devoted and faithful to their duties and provision of assistance to the patients. This can be clearly seen in their close follow-up of the patients and their resolve to have those patients recover from addiction. Secondly, we also need to promote the Center and for this purpose we are presently assessing the very idea of its establishment and the services it currently offers compared with its originally envisaged goals of treatment and rehabilitation. Thirdly, we need to provide training for the national personnel who are engaged in statistics, information, studies and research. The fourth challenge we are confronting is the community awareness through partnerships with social and youth organizations for drawing up programmes of guidance and enlightenment. We are also facing the problem of impatience by the patients or the families with the length of the period of treatment which extends from six months to two years of continued follow-up by the treating team for full recovery and averting any setback.
Q: How can the historic narcotics risk be challenged?
A: The challenge will first be directed to the causes of addiction. It’s not we alone who suffer from this problem but almost the entire world share the problem of the spread and addiction of narcotics and I am almost certain that we may be the least people who are affected by the phenomenon, as we have noticed in international conferences. Fighting off the phenomenon can be carried out by helping the kids to have upright friends, preoccupying them during their leisure time, persuading them for participation in programmes of promoting skills and building capacities and addressing family problems which may be a direct reason for addiction. Firm family relations must be maintained between the children and their families to enable the families to have an idea about the friends of their kids and to be aware of any changes which may occur due to consumption of narcotics or liquors.
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