ADDICTION, according to medical experts, is a chronic disease that caused by drug seeking and uses that is difficult to stop using it or control, despite the harmful consequences. The initial decision of someone s/he to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use it can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.
Drugs are continuing to negatively affecting health of people and sometimes causing deaths to them world -wide. Drugs are chemicals that affect the nervous system and are changing the mind, mood and behaviour of the person who uses them. In Tanzania, the most commonly found and used drugs are cannabis, heroin, valium, tramadol, pethidine, narcotic and others.
For heroin, some of its effects are causing heart attack, liver, kidney- diseases, HIV infection, hepatitis and tuberculosis’ and sometimes cause death and it reduce attention, cause accidents, severe pains and fever. People who use cocaine, they can be affected by high blood pressure, sudden deaths, hepatitis infections, depression, lack of appetite just to mention a few.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime- 2021 report on combating drugs and crimes, globally more than 296 million people used drugs in the year 2021, which is equal to an increase of 21 percent over the past ten years.
The report clarified that the new statistics put an international estimate of people who injected drugs for 2021 to 13.2 million which is 18 percent higher than the previously estimation. According to the report, the number of people suffering from drug use problems has risen to 39.5 million which is an increase of 45 per cent in the past of 10 years.
Tanzania has been working tirelessly to join the world effort in the fought of the drug use and their beneficiaries. Addressing the nation recently during the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Arusha City, President Samia Suluhu Hassan ordered drug baron to shun the business in order to save young workforce from using the drugs.
The Head of State was quoted saying some youth who are taking different types of drugs are ending up usurping traffic officers’ duties while directing them to roads, as they were under the drug use custody.
The president apart from directing the relevant authorities to search into various garage for those who use drugs and take stern measures against them, she said Tanzania has made success in controlling drug trafficking, by reaching 90 percent of the feat achievement against the matter. Likewise in Mwanza Region, efforts have been made in order to ensure that the drug’s use challenges are solved in the community by involving various people, nongovernmental organisation, hospital and various interventions.
Speaking during the commemoration of the day which held in Mwanza City at regional level recently, the Medically Assisted Therapy (MAT) Clinic at the Mwanza regional Referral Hospital Sekou Toure Site Manager Dr Meshack Samwel said the centre has joined the government efforts in the fought of the matter.
He said since its inauguration in 2021, a total of 50 clients who were using drugs have been graduated from treatment as they were given it free of charge.
Dr Samwel who is also the Psychiatrist and Mental Health Specialist, emphasised that the centre also continued to provide various services, including facility-led community outreach programme aimed at educating the public on the negative effects of using drugs, comprehensive HIV prevention, testing campaign and treatment, psychosocial support, occupational therapy and tuberculosis treatment.
He said the facility led community outreach has provided better community-based HIV services to Persons who inject drugs (PWID) and People who use drugs (PWUD). “There has been success on joint supervision from the Drug Control and Enforcement Authority, the Ministry of Health and mentors from other regions who help in leading police sensitisation meetings to bridge structural gap in the community”, he explained, adding that drugs make a user to have negative thoughts that can lead to improper behaviour.
Dr Samwel mentioned those behaviours such as theft, failure to engage into development activities and sharing syringes of drugs that leads spreads HIV/AIDS among them to mention just few examples.
The Mwanza Regional Referral hospital-Sekou Toure Dr in charge Bahati Msaki praised President Samia Suluhu Hassan for the establishment and opening of the Medically Assisted Clinic (MAT) at the hospital for offering treatment to drug users free of charge. She urged Lake Zone residents who have their children, relatives or friends who are affected by drugs and are not yet known to the authority to use MAT clinic as the hospital provides treatments to victims free of charge.
She said since the inauguration of the clinic, a total of more than 500 clients were enrolled at the hospital and provided free treatments at the MAT Clinic where some of them have changed their behaviours and their lifestyles as well.
“We are very grateful to President Samia Suluhu Hassan who has been working tirelessly to ensure things are moving well in the health sector,” she said, adding to support the efforts undertaken by the government in stopping drug activities in the country.
The Deputy Country Director of ICAP Tanzania Dr John Kahemele said the MAT Clinic at Sekou Toure Regional Referral hospital is the first Lake Zone’s first methadone clinic and the only one. Dr Kahemele said ICAP is implementing the MAT FIKIA+ project which is funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through CDC Tanzania.
He clarified that as of May 2023 a total of 57 clients are currently on treatments at the MAT Clinic and the cumulative enrolment since the inauguration of the clinic is 683.
“A total of 51 clients have successfully graduated from treatments,” he said. He mentioned services provided through ICAP community society organisation partner STEPS as community sensitisation, engagement and PWID, PWUD and MART.
“We are engaging graduated clients, and current clients with good adherence as peers and community outreach volunteers to support clients through enrolment, treatment and retention”, he explained.
The government of Tanzania through Sekou Toure hospital in collaboration with the major global health organisation (ICAP – Tanzania), established a Medically Assisted Therapy (MAT) unit to rehabilitate those affected by the drugs. STEPS Tanzania Programme Manager Mr Ally Chihonda said STEPS Tanzania is supporting more than 150 drug users in Mwanza region through Sekou Toure MAT Clinic with services such as methadone adherence sessions, refreshments and hygiene products provided freely at the Resource Centre located at Isamilo Ward in Nyamagana District.
“We are also supporting the Sekou Toure MAT clinic to track defaulters and missing clients at the community level”, he said. Giving their testimonies, some drug users who were receiving treatments at the MAT clinic and graduated praised the government for the establishment of centre which will enable the people of Lake Zone as well.
A graduator Daud Majaliwa who was born in Arusha region, now Mwanza resident living in Ilemela municipality said he used the drugs for about 10 years and he was admitted at the MAT Clinic being at a critical situation, socially, psychologically and economically.
“Thank God when I reached at the MAT clinic, I was well received cared, given training for two weeks on the use of methadone and up to now I have graduated, am praising the hospital management and the government”, he said urging the government to find the alternative ways to them by giving him the business capital so as he can run his life.
Majaliwa, who is the father of three children’s Shaaban (7) who is in standard two, Amina (9) standard three and Ashfaina (5/12) assured his neighbours and the community that he is going to be the good father who is going to take care his family and participate in the production activities.
“When I graduated, I talked to my wife, who was far away and she is back and we are all living together enjoying life”, he said adding that he now fulfilling his responsibilities as father despite the challenges he faced right now.
“It was not an easy journey, the journey of using drugs took me to different life and different world”, said Mr Faustine John (35) who is a Shinyanga resident now living in Mwanza City, born in the family of six children praised the management of Sekou Toure Hospital through MAT Clinic for continuing offering him free of charges treatment and he is progressing well.