In Ethiopia, rehabilitation centers are addicted to alcohol - Beaking Kenya News

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Wednesday, 28 August 2019

In Ethiopia, rehabilitation centers are addicted to alcohol

Little Mogadishu
Yonas Getu Molla began to chew miraa as an architecture student, when he and his friends would chew leafy stimulants late into the night to help them study.

When they close their books, their heart beats fast, they will look for suppressants such as vodka and cannabis to reduce the effects of amphetamines like plants so they can sleep.


Yonas blamed Miraa for leading her to drug and alcohol addiction, which depleted her career, savings, and respect from her family.

"One substance will follow another substance," he said. "It's like a coin - the back and front."

At the Government-run Substance Rehabilitation Center, he was forced to give up his khat along with his other addictions - an approach that is rare in areas where few are trying to overcome the controversial habit.

Although banned in many countries, chewing on miraa is common in Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa region.

Many see it as a cultural activity rather than a social problem.

However, some users are frank about side effects: loss of appetite, broken teeth and lack of sleep.

The habit can also drain household finances. A user in the capital Addis Ababa will expect to pay around $ 4 (Sh400) per day for khat from the city of Harar in the east, which is the center of production.

Ethiopia's average annual income is $ 783 (Sh78,000), according to the World Bank.

Welday Hagos, a clinical psychologist and director of the Mekele-based center - the only long-term alcohol and alcohol rehabilitation facility - believes that khat is a gateway drug for harder substances.

He said that more than 80 percent of the 500 patients who had lived there since it opened in 2015 began chewing.

"After that they added cigarettes, after that they added alcohol. That's why it is the main gate for various drugs," Welday said.

"We are not on the right track," he said. "We must increase our population's knowledge of the consequences of chewing."

As with harder drugs, stopping using Miraa has a physical and emotional impact on older users, Welday said.

They complain about everything from irritability to nightmares and fluctuations in appetite.

Despite complaints, there is little consensus among health experts about how miraa addiction really is.

As well as individual and group therapy sessions, users are treated at a prescription drug center for withdrawal symptoms.

They are also offered "spiritual sessions", opportunities to work out in a makeshift gym or by playing soccer and entrepreneurship training.

Khat is Ethiopia's second largest export behind coffee, with heavy traffic to neighboring Djibouti and Somalia.

Domestic consumption has also increased especially among students, Welday said, referring to several studies, including one published last year.

Sporadic campaigns by local civil society groups failed to produce a ban as imposed in Britain and the United States.

"In some parts of the country, especially

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