Sudan: Drug Abuse Among Eastern Sudan’s Youth Reaches ‘Unprecedented’ Levels

Kassala — Lu’ay Osman, head of the Kassala department of the National Campaign to Combat Drugs (NCCD), told Radio Dabanga that Kassala has witnessed an “alarming increase” in drug abuse among young people in the state, especially crystal meth, aka ‘ice’.

The rise in drug abuse and availability has been accompanied by an “unprecedented” rise in crime and aggressive behaviour in the region, said Osman. The number of drug abusers has not been officially counted yet.

The people living in Kassala and further afield in eastern Sudan are “shocked and panicking” because of the “new kinds of criminal behaviour,” he said. Crimes are mainly directed towards peoples’ own families or communities, including a person killing his brother and another person hitting his parents. Kassala’s police force has arrested some drug users and drug dealers who are about to be brought to trial.

Efforts are underway to count the total number of drug abusers in the state and publish it officially next week. Osman explained that the Afia Centre of the Kassala Clinic for Addiction Treatment is receiving new cases daily.

The NCCD Kassala department is endeavouring to launch a campaign to combat drug abuse and raise awareness among young people of the dangers. Ice has ‘no stage of return’; the abuser can become addicted from the first dose, whereas heroin usually needs to be used several times before addiction occurs. Osman confirmed that the department is working with the government of Kassala, in cooperation with all military and police agencies, and UN agencies on the campaign. The UN will reportedly provide free treatment for all in the state.

Sudan has been witnessing growing drug abuse in the past decade, with an explosive but under-reported increase in the past few years, reported Radio Dabanga in August.

Though reports on drugs being smuggled in Sudan already appeared in the 1970s, it was only in 2003 that a specialised department was set up to combat drug trafficking. In 2015, the country developed a national drug control strategy, to enable the authorities to work with non-governmental organisations in combating drug trafficking. Yet, official data on the sale and number of users are hard to find.

Traditionally, Sudanese people consume alcohol and cannabis for enjoyment and relief from the hardships of life. Cannabis is still grown in Sudan, in particular in El Radoom in South Darfur. This has definitely changed. Independent Arabiya said in May this year that crystal meth is used on a wide scale as well, by both young men and women.

Rumours go that many young demonstrators protesting against the military junta in Khartoum are taking this very addictive stimulant. Radio Dabanga recently reported that the authorities are now subjecting detained protesters to drug tests.

In September, social activist Omar Tarig Baraka told 3Ayin News that in the past, drug abuse was linked to age groups between 20 and 30 years old. At the moment, however, he sees abuse start in groups as young as 12 years old.

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