TALES OF COURAGE: How I slayed the heroin addiction monster

Friday November 17 2017

Naima Said Nasid, dropped out of high school in

Naima Said Nasid, dropped out of high school in 2004 while she was in Form Two due to lack of school fees. She was addicted to drugs for 12 years. PHOTO| WINNIE ATIENO 

By WINNIE ATIENO
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Naima Said Nasid, dropped out of high school in 2004 while she was in Form Two due to lack of school fees.

Months later, the Mombasa resident met a drug peddler who became her worst nightmare after he introduced her to heroin.

She started by sniffing, gradually she advanced to injecting drugs, becoming an intravenous drug user for almost 12 years.

GENESIS OF DRUG ABUSE

“I was helping my mother who was a food vendor in her small kiosk in Majengo when we met. He used to mix his food with white powder and some other substance. He would sniff the stuff and immediately became very talkative and fun to be with,’’ says Naima.

According to Naima, the man was cut above the rest of the customers she had known in their cafe as he was always clad in expensive clothes.

“I got curious and asked him what made him so high, talkative and fun to be with. He was honest, he told he was peddling heroin to touts. But he warned me on the dangers of drug abuse.”

Instead of heeding to his advice, she started sniffing the substance and he became her supplier.

“Sooner, we became lovers. When I missed taking the daily dose I became like a zombie with my body aching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and agitation.”

Before long she became a petty thief, prostitute and a con artist just to get money and satisfy her drug cravings.

Ms Naima said she opted for injecting because sachets were very expensive, but after one injection her world changed and there was no turning back.

INJECTING CHEAPER

“Injecting is cheaper than sachets and one gets high very fast. A sachet costs Sh200 and depending on your level of addiction you can use up to five sachets in day. But injecting is cheaper, I only need three shots per day which totaled to around Sh600,’’ she recalls.

Her world came tumbling down in 2006, when she was infected with Hepatitis C and HIV through sharing needles at a drug den in Majengo.

The viruses did not deter her from abusing drugs.

“I lived a careless life away from home while prostituting. I was waiting to die because I had wasted my life and here I was living with the two diseases.”

She sometimes sneaked back home and stole a TV, phones and clothes among other household goods from her parents..

During one of these escapades, they ?caught her and took her to Reachout, a rehabilitation centre in Mombasa but she only lasted for a month and ran away to Malindi in search of white men and more drugs.

POWER OF ADDICTION

‘The power of addiction and cravings took the best of me so I went to Malindi where heroin was cheaper and ‘pure’, a sachet sold at Sh100. As time went by the more I became ensnared by drugs.’’

The 29-year-old says she hooked up with white men who bought her drugs in exchange of sexual favours, at times she never bothered using any protection as long as she was paid handsomely.

Years later, the first born child in a family of three siblings decided to go back home after she heard her parents were searching for her.

“But I never stopped abusing drugs until in 2015 when I met an old friend who had gone through successful rehabilitation program. He begged me to give it a try, he looked very smart and healthy.”

SAVED BY A FRIEND

Her friend told her the government was about to roll out a new rehabilitation program dubbed Medically-Assisted Treatment which targeted injecting drug users.

It is the use of medications with counselling and behavioural therapies to treat substance abuse disorders.

It is primarily used for the treatment of addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates.

There is only one MAT clinic run by the Mombasa County government in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime situated at Kisauni dispensary.

Before the patients used to receive the methadone from Coast Provincial General Hospital MAT clinic, however due to the frequent health workers strike that affected the rehab services it was transferred to Kisauni health centre.

“He told me heroin addicts would be given methadone and some incentives.’’

She was enrolled in the program, two years later, she has never looked back. Naima is now inspiring others to go for rehab.

Every day, Naima goes to the Kisauni MAT clinic for her methadone dose, antiretroviral therapy (ART) and hepatitis C medication.

“At first I was scared after some people said it was dangerous and could kill injecting drug users. But we were shown some clips from the US showing how it had saved lives.’’

In September 2015, she became the first MAT patient at the Coast region.

But she has had a share of challenges, including relapsing.

The first time she tested the dose was at the Coast Provincial General Hospital, all her pains subdued, she felt like a new being.

"It worked wonders on my body, I didn’t feel any ache pain. A month after using methadone I became pregnant. I couldn’t believe it. I never used any kind of protection while in the streets yet I never got pregnant. I realized MAT had started healing my body."

LONGED FOR A CHILD

She said had longed for a child for many years so that her parents could get a grandchild who would erase the pain she put them through.

“My parents took me in when they realised I was recovering and I was carrying their grandchild, they were happy. My brothers who used to be bullied, ridiculed and stigmatised due to my addiction are now proud of me.’’

Her daughter, who is one year and three months old is her joy and pride.

‘’Methadone dug me up from my grave. The father of my child is also a recovering drug addict he is on the program. I was already HIV positive when I got pregnant but I never infected him because he was on Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). I used medication and my child was born HIV negative.’’

The wounds from poor injection practices in her hands will forever be a reminder of her addiction.

“Don’t share needles it’s the easiest method of transmitting HIV and Hepatitis C.? You are not born with an addiction, you can quit,’’ she says. ?

001 is a name given to her by her colleagues and health officials at clinic. It was derived from being the first heroin heroine.

“She was the first client but after one month of using methadone she got pregnant. Naima has been consistent with her medication. She has completed two years of medication,” says Dr Mahad Hassan who is in charge of the clinic.

He said the clinic has 710 patients on methadone with only 100 who have relapsed.

“The clinic’s capacity is 500. Each day we are receiving new clients who want to enroll for methadone.”

County director of health Shem Patta said the county’s HIV prevalence rate currently stands at 7.5 per cent.

“Mombasa is amongst the10 counties with a high burden of HIV that is why we are collaborating with partners stop reduce the infection rate among key population, including Intravenous Drug Users,” he adds.

***

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