“It was a painful moment when I lost my friend to an overdose of heroin; he passed out and turned blue in the face with foam in his mouth.” This is how Imad , 21, recalls the tragic death of his college pal, Ziad.
The last dose was a turning point in the life of Imad who miraculously survived, only to start an open-ended journey of rehabilitation. Imad attempted to save his friend’s life during a one-to-one drug treatment at the victim’s place. The tragedy was a blow to Ziad’s family who were totally unaware of their son’s drug dependence.
Ziad, 21, is but another name on the list which has grown in the past two years. At least ten college students reportedly died, but the actual number of casualties is abounding. However, in an attempt to save the face of their conservative families, the deaths were classified as “natural causes”.
Official records revealed the death of at least 46 drug addicts during the past three years. The cause of death was reported to be generated from heroin overdose; which is described– by both drug dealers and users as the number one killer drug that is accessible and/or available in the Kingdom.
Deaths related to drug consumption increased since the second Gulf War (1990-1991); with lifestyles shifting towards more consumption, while simultaneously, having the fatal kind of heroin introduced to the market by new drug dealers. According to university officials and students, these drug dealers have adulterated university campuses around Jordan.
Since the break of this year, the National Center for Forensic Medicine, reported 13 mortalities- 25% were college students. Head of the center, Dr. Mu’min al Hadidi, attributed the deaths to heroin overdose. However, the actual figure is greater than the official statistics. Patients at two rehabilitation centers, which are run by the Public Security and Health Ministry departments, confirmed the deaths of 80 people– a third of them were students.
Al Rai’i daily newspaper reported tens of unexposed drug addiction cases; this is according to a survey conducted in four public and private universities, inside and outside the capital Amman. Drugs and Society Students of both sexes gradually indulge in addiction. Hypothetically, fear from social punishment and isolation prevents them from seeking therapy and rehabilitation. As a result, various drug users remain anonymous to official records, according to the rehab center spokespersons.
A female college student, who is being treated confidentially, spoke out to Dr. Jamal Anani, head of the drug treatment and rehabilitation center. The female student stated ,“25 of her female colleagues in the same field of study and year use ecstasy drugs”.
Another community college student told the same source that one of her female colleagues talked her into taking ecstasy drugs, saying they were plain pain killers. Shortly afterwards, the student became a habitual drug user.
In an attempt to weigh up the size of this phenomenon among college students, “Al Rai’i” newspaper was able to break into the circle of drug dealers in Amman and al Aqaba (south of the capital) and Sahhab (30 km east of Amman), as well as inside the detention and addiction centers.
Five dealers, at least, confirmed that college and high school students constituted one-third of consumers, who add up to hundreds. Other students preferred drug trafficking for its profitable values; this helps them get their needs from “wholesalers”.
A drug dealer in located in Sahhab said that college students “visit him often to get ecstasy pills or heroin or marijuana”. Another says that a number of students act as brokers in exchange for their rations, particularly those who cannot afford it.
On his part, director of the Department of Drug and Crime Control Department pointed out that drug addicts come mainly from the very rich or very poor communities. The middle class, which is gradually disappearing, is rather more immune and protected against this phenomenon, lieutenant colonel Tayel al Majali confirmed.
Studies and Figures
An official study conducted in 2004 by the School Health Administration at the Jordanian Ministry of Health, indicated that one out of four males between 11 and 16, have used or had at least one-time encounter with one or all of the following: drugs, alcohol, smoking or stimulants.
The study has shown that 27% of a random sample (4000 students, males,and females), have in fact used drugs or alcohol or stimulants. The study was directed by the head of the Health Security Department, Dr. Malek al Habashneh, and funded or sponsored by the Cairo-based UN Regional Office for Drug and Crime Awareness.
In 2001, a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, in coordination with the United Nations and the Department for Drug Control, revealed that cocaine- especially, the deadly kind- is the most common and widespread among students. The US$70,000- survey covered high school and college students as well as convicts.
Jordanian authorities have reportedly denied the convenience of the trade in and use of drugs on its territories. However, during the first eight months of 2006, the Drug Control Department confiscated nearly 1701 cases, including 243 local dealers. Figures show a considerable increase in the past years.
In 2005, 2041 cases were reported; 4792 people, including 746 potential dealers were arrested. Among those detained were 74 women, including 22 non-Jordanians, as well as 140 students, 46 being of other nationalities.
In 2004, the confiscated cases totaled 1691, during which 2134 people were detained on charges of acquisition, trade or drug abuse.
Lieutenant colonel al Majali glosses over the rapid spread of the phenomenon among college students; statistics released by his department reveal 500 cases of drug use among 259,000 students distributed over 23 universities. This figure is relatively high when compared to the number of addicts between the age group 23-35, which is roughly equivalent to 3.5,000 to 4,000 people. This indicates that one out of eight drug addicts is identified as a college student.
Notwithstanding statistics provided by his department, Tayel al Majali claims the number of college students who are drug addicts is not big; the drug control agency puts the mortality rate at 46, mainly from overdose or adulterated heroin.
Al Majali believes the use of drugs in Jordan is not a phenomenon, basing his belief on United Nations reports and findings.
However, these statements by al Majali should not underestimate the gravity of a twofolded problem, involving both the dealing and the abusing of drugs.
Ignorance Among Students
According to university and drug officials, the majority of students from both sexes are totally unaware of counter effects of drugs or of mishaps of other addicts.
Usama told al Rai’i that “a great number of students use drugs, and sometimes use pills freely among themselves, especially the Indian opium, which is quite widespread”. Usama is a business administration student at Al Hasan Bin Talal Public University, which is located south of the Kingdom.
His colleague, Amer. A, supports his statement saying drug dealers are, themselves, students. The latter manipulate the potential users offering them free hallucination drugs, hoping to drag them into their world of addiction. This student sought to transfer to another university to avoid being duped.
Public Relations officer at the University of Al Hussein Bashir Krishan, denies any infiltration of the campus. He did not deny, however, the spread of the phenomenon in the desert city of Maan, territory of many drug dealers.
In an attempt to fight the spread of this phenomenon, Al- Hussein University organized a number of drug awareness workshops and events. Students themselves admit that private universities are a fertile ground for the promotion of drugs, where students are mainly rich and come from different nationalities.
In Jordan, there are 23 universities,15 of which are private.
However, Lieutenant colonel Al Majali does not agree with this account, saying colleges race to win students, and therefore, fabricate reports that tarnish the reputation their rivals.
A member of staff at the Hashemite University said he found “drug syringes” thrown on the floor inside a lecture hall. He reported it directly to the security forces who opened an investigation but no details were released.
Two years ago, security authorities arrested a lupine vendor at the Jordanian University’s main gate on charges of selling narcotics. On interrogation, the man confessed to trafficking drugs for the past five years.
A professor at al Zarqa’a Community College, discloses that Zarqa, Jordan’s second most populated city (one million), has become a hub for drug trade, because of its diverse nationalities. Dr. Kamal al Hawamdeh said al Zarqa’a Community College and the Hashemite University are identified as two potentially profitable targets for drug dealers, due to the high number of people in the province, compared to other parts of the Kingdom, who use or sell these toxins.
Records of confiscations made by the Drug Control Department, showed 283 cases in Al Zarqa’a Province during 2005– making it the second largest city, after Amman, with reported 977 cases of drug consumption.Autopsy A study made by Dr. Mu’min al Hadidi, revealed the death of 13 people from
A study made by Dr. Mu’min al Hadidi, revealed the death of 13 people from heroin overdose, since the beginning of 2006. Four of these deaths were reported as two separate cases, each involving two students. ِAfter undergoing Autopsy, the cause of death was stated to be generated from heroin overdose which affected the respiratory center of the brain, thus leading to respiratory arrest.
Dr. Hadidi says many parents refuse to perform an autopsy on their children’s corps. However, the Jordanian law, mandates an autopsy if criminal charges are involved.
Corresponding names by comparing overdose victims with the record of patients at rehabilitation centers over the past three years, we confirmed the number of victims by far exceeded the statistics released by the national center for forensic medicine and the drug control department.
Head of the public center for substance abuse rehabilitation in Shafa Badran, Dr. Jamal Anani, told al Rai’i 90% of the names of victims in official records matched the list of patients enrolled in rehabilitation program centers.
These centers confirm the death of 76 drug users from overdose- 25% of which are youth- which is almost double the disclosed official figure. Al Majali still believes the number is exaggerated.
The Drug Control Department and the rehabilitation centers act in line with provisions of Article 14, Paragraph E of the law on narcotics and mood altering substance, demanding “complete discretion in handling the names or any other information or facts about the persons in rehab… anyone who releases any info, which is considered confidential, is sentenced to not more than one year in prison and fined with maximum 500JD.”
Female Drug Delivery
One dealer spoke of using girls, namely college students, in trafficking or marketing drugs. The substance is delivered to the target but with extra cost or smaller quantity. Messengers are usually substance users who get their quota as brokers bringing in heroin from the border areas to sell it in the cities.
One drug dealer said the addict is obligated to buy what is available on the street, usually impure and “adulterated” drug. In fact, pure unadulterated heroin is hard to find, and is designed mostly for “export”; and when found on the street, it is usually very expensive. Street prices range between 15-20 dinars per gram for the impure heroin and up to 120 dinars for the pure drug.
Methods of Drug Use
Methods of heroin use range from “snorting” to “free-basing” in which the heroin is burned on a piece of tin and as a result the fume (pure heroin) is smoked through the mouth using a cigarette wrapper, leaving the impurities behind on the metal. Nonetheless, the most popular method is one of intravenous injection, which is considered to be the most potent and cost-effective for the seasoned addicts. It involves placing the drug on a spoon mixed with water, and a few drops of lemon juice brought to boiling point, aspirated into a syringe injected into a vein. This method is potentially the most lethal of all, and can facilitate the spread of AIDS.
The number of patients suffering from AIDS reached 471 cases, including Jordanians. According to statistics released by the National AIDS Control Program, the percentage of victims who contracted the HIV virus by injections is close to 4% of the total reported cases.
Over the past five years, the Drug Control Department reportedly destroyed 9.2 tons of hashish, 15129864 sedatives, 456 kg of heroin and 83 kg of opium. Customs and drug control officers said that the size of the confiscated substances did not beat 10% of the substances being trafficked or which cross the borders. However, records reveal that the phenomenon has been spiraling over the past five years (See table 5).
The Secret Road
A seasoned drug dealer said “drugs come across Syria to neighboring countries, namely Israel and the Gulf states; considerable quantities are marketed inside Jordan”.
For smaller drug smuggling operations across airports, drug traffickers use special bags, shoes or even capsules which they swallow or insert in the rectum. These usually carry 50-70 g, and the containers are carbon-laced to reduce chances of detection by electronic surveillance and trained dogs.Yet, according to lieutenant colonel Al Majali, drug testing devices can identify drugs smuggled in the human body.
Addicts and Rehab Centers
Since 2000, five thousand addicts have received treatment at three main rehabilitation centers. This allows them to avoid serving prison terms; as stipulated by the law on narcotics and mood altering substances. Two of these centers are public, in other words, run by the public security department and the ministry of health. The third center is a private sector facility.
The addicts and their families benefited from recent amendments to related legislation, which allowed those seeking drug rehabilitation to avoid incarceration and penalty.
The penalty for drug consumption could reach up to 6 months imprisonment, and a fine of 500 to 1000 dinars– as explained in Article 12, paragraph B of the subject law. However, this does not mean that this law is applicable in every single case, given the fact that the dealer might receive harsher penalties; including the death sentence, for repeated offenses.
Three Rooms to Treat Addicts
Drug rehabilitation centers, which are run by the Drug Control Department, treat 15 addicts, most of whom were transferred from prison, and some who have served a 7-year term on drug trafficking charges.
Head of the rehab center, which is controlled by the Department of Public Security, believes that “the 3-month treatment period is insufficient, and should be upgraded to at least 8 months, as is the case in international rehab centers.” Lieutenant Khaled Al Udwan, who holds a masters degree in psychotherapy, said they were planning to find a bigger location that could house more than three rooms– as is the case at the present moment.
Since its inception in 1994, the center has treated 1628 addiction cases.Today, there are 15 cases that are being treated.
The head manager of the department has disclosed that the actual mortality rate stemming from drug abuse exceeds, by far, official statistics. He gave a rough estimate of 94 deaths resulting from an overdose, including college students between 20 to 30 years old.
The rehabilitation center, which is run by the Public Security Department, “allows free treatment adopting modern intervention techniques, namely, utilizing pharmaceuticals to treat withdrawal symptoms, depression, and anxiety.” Non-pharmaceutical techniques include individual and group therapy, behavior modification, family rehabilitation, physical therapy and hypnosis.
Who Pays Back the Government ?
The National Center for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Drug Addicts; which is controlled by the Ministry of Health, was established in 2001 and housed 60 beds– half of which are not for current use.
The center allows free treatment to all Jordanian citizens. Dr. Jamal al Anani; the center’s director, said that the center treated nearly 1517 cases since it was founded; amongst them 42 girls. The daily charge per patient could reach 93 JD.
Al Anani stated in addition to “The rehabilitative therapeutic services patients which include males, females ,and adolescents, are provided with accommodations for a short period of time. Al Anani also stressed on the need for bigger funds to keep the services running efficiently at its full capacity ; adding that the rate of admission of females is fairly small due to social norms and traditions.”
Director of the Drug Rehabilitation Center at Al Rashid Hospital, Dr. Faeq al Zaghary, released statistics relating to drug addiction cases that have been admitted to the center over the past five years.The results are as follows:
The total number of male and female addicts admitted from January until the end of August was 92, including Jordanians and non-Jordanian citizenship.
The number of cases treated at the hospital prior to the opening of the special rehab unit (from 1996 to date) was 1296, including 777 Jordanians and 519 of other nationalities.
Yet, Dr. Al Zaghary confirms the number of students and youth addicts exceeded, by far, the recorded number. Dr. Al Zaghary based his data on studies done on this subgroup of addicts. Affidavits from Treated Addicts
Addicts Statements Receiving Treatment
Zuhair, 39, a heroin addict, describes his experience as follows: “I lost my university studies, and spent my savings on drugs, and became a thief since I stole my mother’s jewelry, one time.”
Zuhair’s addiction developed from using hashish to using heroin; he tried to quit but couldn’t. He believes that prison encourages the addict and the dealer to continue their habits, as it allows the form of closer contact and relationships between them. This may result in buying drugs from dealers on loan. Zuhair spent 200,000 JD on buying drugs and on treatment.
He Ran Out of Veins and Kept looking for More
Muhammad, 29, tried, but failed, to inject in the veins on his arms; so he started looking for other spots, like his feet and tongue. He was incarcerated three times, but continued to actively seek sources of heroin.
I Experienced the First Crisis in Jordan
Another young man, a Lebanese, said he experienced his first “crisis” in Jordan, not in Lebanon. Heavily-tattooed Ahmad, 20, added that his addiction did not begin as a result of family problems or failure, rather it started as curiosity, and caused him to drop out of university.
Experts explain the “crisis” as a decrease of drug levels in the body, manifested initially as generalized fatigue, nosebleeds, generalized aches and pains similar to flu-like symptoms, associated with vomiting, muscle spasms, depression and lack of concentration, as well as prostration, which renders addicts to feverishly seek more drugs. This is called the “withdrawal syndrome”.
Behind Drug Scenes in Al Laban
Mahmoud, 45, said he had to sell his store for half its price to buy drugs. He was being treated for the second time at a center run by the Ministry of Health. Mahmoud lost his son who was hit by a car, and divorced his wife, whom he says would not allow him to see his only daughter.
Mahmoud first snorted heroin for five days, thinking it will enhance his sex drive as had been suggested to him by a friend. After a short period, he developed “withdrawal symptoms” and his friend advised him to continue using drugs in order to avoid these symptoms. His addiction lasted 22 years.
The number of heroin addicts, mainly among youth, is much higher than what is officially disclosed. This is because heroin has become cheap on the street, cheaper than alcohol; 15-20 JD per gram, compared to 70-90 JD as it was before.
Mahmoud describes Al Laban area in Sahhab as the area with the most populated drug addicts. It has four entrances, each monitored by a drug central unit. In the heart of the area, there isn’t any specific security. However, there are random searches that happen every now and then in which and some people might be subjected to do a urine and blood test to record drug percentages in the body.
What is The Secret Truth?
Ali was sentenced to 7 years in prison for drug trafficking . Ali’s Story as he stated: “I opened the suitcase of some customer who entrusted me to keep it, but to my surprise, I found opium and started selling it.” He did not stop there, he started to sell it at his rest house, until he was pinned down and arrested by drug control officers”. Ali stated he “entered prison a pervert and came out an expert.”
She Visits the Center in Secret
One of the addicts who through her friends became particularly addicted to Heroin, according to what Dr.Anani mentioned, this artist has been trying to get treated for 30 years without her parents being informed. She has illustrated how dangerous it is to be a drug addict by her charcoal piece which was later hung on the walls of the rehabilitation center.
Imad felt he was much better after his mission to rehab, stating that he will continue his higher education at the college where he saw his friend’s tragic death, and where he was saddened with his friend’s weak academic performance. This, he said, pushes him to move forward.
Nevertheless, Imad did not give his word about not satisfying the thought of using drugs again!