Maldives marks first anniversary of its ever first Methadone clinic

'Methadone was my cure'

Prevention of drug use is amongst the top priorities for the Government of Maldives. To adress this problem the government is focusing on better understanding of the risk factors associated with drug use. UNODC South Asia has been working with the Government of Maldives to increase the accessibility to health services for drug users in Maldives by introducing the Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) Programme which began on 16 Octocber 2008. The Methadone clinic popularly known as 'Gagan' clinic in Maldives celebrated its first anniversary and on this occasion one of the drug users who is a client of the MMT programme, shares his candid experience.

"I have been in addiction for around 16 years now. I started with cannabis at the age of 18 years and then slowly went into heroin. When I was 25, I was actively involved in heroin addiction earning the title of a hard-core addict. But my internal state was different. I wanted to quit heroin at all cost. I isolated myself on islands where heroin was not available and went through the worst of pain. I tried this method, but each time, the moment I landed in Male, I found myself thinking about my dealer from where I could get my fix! I also tried my hand at rehabilitation centres, but in vain. I went to India and Sri Lanka for medical detoxification but that was of no use. I had a strong will to stop heroin, but was powerless when it came to withdrawals and cravings.

I also started studying about heroin and addiction related matters. I started collecting information about relapse prevention, stress management, anger management, life skills, coping skills and so on. I started attending the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings organized by the NGO JOURNEY and other sessions held by recovering addicts. In spite of all these, nothing seemed to be working with me. My cravings weren't coming down and I wasn't getting any better than before. Even though I became knowledgeable, it wasn't doing much to my addiction problems. I felt as if I was being drawn deeper and deeper into the tangles of addiction. I lost all hopes of living a sober life and that made me more depressed. I lost my wife, my job, my reputation, respect and I definitely was not myself.

During such a stage of my life, where everything seemed dark and hopeless, Methadone came as a ray of hope into my life. My friend, Faseen called me up and told me about Methadone. Even though I had very little hope in the Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT), I still wanted to give it a try! So I ended up signing for the MMT, where the doctors explained to me in detail about all aspects of MMT. Since I had taken a shot of heroin, the doctors asked me to come the following day without taking heroin. So I went on the next day in withdrawals. I was given my first dose of Methadone and kept under observation for 3 to 4 hours. After taking Methadone, my withdrawal symptoms became much milder and more tolerable. So my hopes started rising. I stuck to the treatment and gradually started noticing my mental and physical changes. As the days progressed with MMT, my frequency of usage of heroin decreased. Around a month into the treatment, I was using Methadone every alternate day. By the end of one and a half month I touched a dose of only 75mg of Methadone and this time I was a free man.

Today I don't think of heroin and most importantly I am leading a normal and active life without using heroin. Today when I walk on Majeedhee Magu, I suddenly realize that even though I have walked these streets a thousand times in the past eight years, I had never noticed the number of shops and the people walking on the street. It is a new beginning!"

UNODC supports the Government of Maldives in the designing and the implementation of its ever first Drug Control Master Plan which was approved in March 2008. Within this Plan the government implements the comprehensive package of services for Injecting Drug Users and their sex partners with the support of UNODC and local NGOs.

The UNODC work in Maldives is possible through the contribution of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid)