Jordan campaigns to combat taboo drug addiction


By Kamal Taha

Issam was reduced to tears recounting his life as a drug addict, as Jordanian authorities press an unprecedented campaign in the Muslim-majority country where substance abuse remains taboo.

Slogans such as “No to Drugs” are part of the new drive, launched in the wake of a worrying rise in the number of cases of addiction, possession and smuggling, to raise overall awareness of the issue, according to the anti-narcotics department.

Jordan’s public security directorate has also started a primetime radio show that airs every Tuesday to address the dangers of drug addiction.

“Drugs have made me an outcast. No one respects me or even looks at me,” Issam said during the show, hosted by Major Anas Al-Tantawi of the anti-narcotics department.

“It got to the point where I sold my furniture and my five-year-old daughter’s gold earrings ... I tried to commit suicide twice.”

As the show came to a close, Tantawi said: “They are victims, and w

e must help them, not discard them.”

Brig. Anwar Al-Tarawneh, director of the anti-narcotics department, told AFP there has been a 32 percent increase in cases of addiction, possession smuggling in Jordan since 2017.

The evidence is there. In a room in the department, the shelves are crammed with white plastic bags and brown envelopes bulging with seized drugs — including heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. Some were smuggled into the country in hollowed-out books, or shoes or disguised as pastries in a box.

But authorities say hashish is the most commonly used drug in the kingdom, where 20,000 people were arrested in 2018 for drug abuse.

Drug traffickers in Jordan, which has a small population of just over nine million, face sentences of between three and 20 years, depending on the amount

ween one and two months, said Fawaz Al-Masaeed, the center’s director.

“There are three stages: detox, treatment and rehabilitation,”he told AFP, and the center follows up with patients for four months after their discharge.

Omar, 32, said his mother encouraged him to check in to the center after having struggled with drug addiction for 14 years.

“A friend offered me a cigarette when I was depressed, telling me ‘Take this, it’ll make you relax,’” Omar, now a father of four, told AFP.

“When I asked for another, I realized it was hashish ... I was 18 years old.”

After years of substance abuse, “my health deteriorated, I lost 27 kg (almost 60 pounds), I lost my job, and it strained my relationships with everyone around me. I destroyed my life.”

Now after his rehabilitation, Omar hopes “to start a new life”. — AFP