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Drug treatment center helping thousands.

Summary: Nestled in the cool mountains of Jwayya, an addiction center provides rehabilitation and medical treatment for drug addicts.

JWAYYA, Lebanon: Nestled in the cool mountains of Jwayya, an addiction center provides rehabilitation and medical treatment for drug addicts, a rare thing in a society that has longed criminalized drug use. "Patients come here willingly, we do not coordinate with police stations and we cannot force an addict into treatment," Fadi Atrash, manager of the Jwayya Welfare Hospital, told The Daily Star, going on to explain the two stages of the center's treatment process.

During the first stage, which can last anywhere between 15 days and an entire month, the patient spends their time in the hospital and receives therapy while being closely monitored so they do not relapse.

The patient is then transferred to a specialized rehabilitation center in Keyfoun, Mount Lebanon.

"There is a common misconception that an addict is a criminal," Atrash said. "But through [working] in this center, which has been treating addicts for six years, we see that an addict is someone that has been struck with a calamity."

The center treats no fewer than 5,000 patients a year. Most come from Beirut and its suburbs, and those aged between 18 and 35 constitute at least 90 percent of patients. They come from all walks of life and include the poor, the well-off, college students, unemployed youth and even entire families. The hospital treats people of several nationalities, including Iraqis, Syrians, Palestinians, and even has a number of Lebanese-Swiss patients.

Throughout the year, the hospital's 16 beds are never empty and the center is looking to expand by adding an extra floor. The staff has received specialist addiction-treatment training, having undergone years of workshops and educational courses.

"They are not allowed to communicate with the patients outside of the hospital," Atrash said. "But when they are in here, it is as if we are all one big family."

It is A.Sh.'s second time at the hospital, after relapsing. Now 26, he said he has been doing drugs since he was 13 years old.

"At 13, I used to wake up at night and could not sleep ... they guys were drinking [codeine] cough medicine. I asked them what it felt like and they told me it relaxes you and you feel good, so I drank it," he said. "I would drink more and more, I then moved to the Tramal [painkiller Tramadol] and then to heroin."

He blames his relapse in 2014 on his environment. "Without even feeling it, I went back to abusing drugs, and from then it was another two years of addiction," he told The Daily Star. "I took the decision and came here again."

S.M. is being treated in the center for the first time. He curses drug dealers and the Lebanese government for being so lenient on them.

"I don't like being referred to as an addict, but someone who has been stricken with the calamity of addiction," he told The Daily Star.

He said that he sold everything in his home, "even the gas."

"I swear that I want to change, and once I have cleaned up my blood I want to start giving it to those in need," he added.

Within one of the center's pool halls A.S, a recovering addict, called on his friends to "take the bold step" and submit to treatment.

"Doing drugs takes you to another world, it is as if you are riding a horse and everyone is beneath you," he told The Daily Star. "But then you wake up and fall into a black hole and find out that you are worthless scum. Leave it, you still have time and treatment is easy ... it brings back your parents love, the same parents that you would have killed for a hit."

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Jul 31, 2017
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