Translated by Emily Auer from Ammon News Arabic
Addicts emphasize the ease at which they can attain drugs: Lack of legislation has made Jordan a hub for drugs.
AMMONNEWS – Amal Ghabayen - 27 year old 'B. Z.' did not realize when he curiously lit a hashish cigarette as a teenager during his second year of high school that he would slide down the slippery slope of drug addiction.
The university student now, B. Z. (name withheld for anonymity), is currently moving through the stages of drug detox and treatment at the Addiction Treatment Center in Amman.
Growing up in an affluent family, B. Z. was easily able to finance his addiction. Yet, reinforcing his addiction was the extreme ease at which he was able to obtain heroin and hashish locally over the years.
In an interview with 'Ammon News' at the Addiction Treatment Center, the young man said that he started abusing heroin during his second year at the university while in search of a stronger drug than hashish.
The young man’s journey with heroin lasted five years, during which time he indiscriminately spent approximately 100 Jordanian Dinars daily to support his abuse.
The deterioration of his health and academic performance forced 'B. Z.' to reveal his drug abuse condition to his family. His family subsequently sent him overseas several times for treatment. Yet each time he returned back to Amman, he went back to drugs.
"Drug addiction didn't just ruin my health, but also my academic and career futures," he told 'Ammon News' correspondent.
As for the reasons for his repeated returns to drugs even after several periods of treatment both in Jordan and overseas, the young man emphasizes the ease at which he can always find drugs. "They are readily available in the region and among my friends, and this leads to widespread abuse and addiction," he said.
"I unfortunately had a role in getting several of my male and female friends to start abusing drugs and consequently get addicted, especially that I was trying to get closer to my drug dealer by bringing him new clients."
B. Z. expressed dismay at the conditions of some of his addict friends, especially female friends who resorted at times to sexually offering themselves to drug dealers in exchange for heroin.
Stories of other patients at the Addiction Treatment Center in Amman varied in details, but culminated to the same fate that brought them to the center.
The addict patients pinpointed two main aspects that facilitated their drug abuse: the ease of finding the drugs, and the weakness of anti-drug laws to deter people from drugs and have contributed to the widespread drug trade in the region.
The Addiction Treatment Center in Amman, which is affiliated with the Anti-Narcotics Administration, has extended its free services to admit citizens and Arab and foreign nationals in addiction treatment programs for years.
The Director of the Center, Major Mazen Qublan, told 'Ammon News' that the center has treated 2,669 addiction cases since it opened in 1949.
Heroin patients constituted the majority of cases admitted into the center, around 1,255 cases, compared to 451 hashish addiction cases, 12 cocaine cases, 781 drug and prescription drug pills users, and 170 cases of other drug and substance abuse cases.
Qublan noted that the addiction cases included Jordanians, Arab and foreign nationals, indicating that Saudi Arabians constituted the greatest number of foreign nationals treated at the center, which reached 31 cases.
43 female drug addicts were treated at the center during 2009, Qublan said, noting that female patients are treated at the Shafa Badran center in northern Amman, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Health, or in their own homes based on specified treatment programs.
He indicated that nearly 81 percent of addicts began abusing drugs because of influence from friends, and 61 percent of them indicated they first tried drugs out of curiosity.
In regards to admission into the center, Major Qublan said that addicts either admits themselves voluntarily or are brought to the center by close relatives. He stressed that no legal action is taken against any person who arrives at the center, some of whom even use pseudonyms to maintain anonymity.
A medical and psychological evaluation of the addict is done by a psychiatrist and medical supervisors before beginning the treatment program, which also includes attempts by social workers to mend the addicts' relationships with their families and friends to provide them with a support network during their treatment phases.
The beginning of the treatment program is the most difficult stage for the addict, Qublan said, because it requires the addict to immediately quit the drug being abused without introducing him or her to an alternative narcotic.
The treatment program includes lectures, spiritual sessions, field trips, and sport-based activities that fill up the addicts' time, Qublan said, noting that unfortunately, the small space available for activities at the center and the lack of a private bus for the center is not allowing them to provide more programs for the patients inside and outside the center.
Qublan indicated that 50% of the addicts who receive treatment return to their addiction after they leave the center, and 65.6% of that group return to drugs because of the influence of their circle of friends.
As for the regions where drug abuse is most prevalent, Qublan said that the capital Amman tops the list, followed by the cities of Zarqa and Aqaba.
On his part, former head of the Jordan Bar Association Saleh Al Armouti, said that the absence of stern legislation against drug dealing as well as the lack of the threat of arrests contribute to the widespread phenomenon of addiction and the availability of drugs in society.
Alarmouti stressed that Jordanian laws do not deal with the issue of the drug trade firmly enough, whereas numerous other countries in the world treat drug trafficking harshly by enforcing serious penalties against anyone who participates in drug trade and dealing.
He added the State Security Court deals with drug trafficking cases on a daily basis, but often reduces the drug trafficking crime sentences for 15 to 7 year imprisonments.
"The absence of stern anti-drug legislation has made Jordan a hub for drug trafficking and drug abuse, where drug trade reached the level of being controlled by gangs and mafias," Armouti said.
The laxity in treating the drug trafficking and dealing problem, and the ready availability of drugs in the community, are directly contributing to the increasing phenomenon of drug abuse in Jordan.