Shuroq al Amal al Alamia’s work in drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion

Shuroq al Amal al Alamia in Al Hail does in­valu­able work in drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion de­spite fund­ing is­sues

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Trid­wip K Das

Al­most three years to the day since he first came here, Saud al Qasmi re­vis­ited Shuroq al Amal al Alamia on Jan­uary 8, 2020. He came to con­sult Dr Zahra al Har­mali, its founder and CEO, on an im­por­tant fam­ily mat­ter. He had been us­ing drugs for more than 15 years when he de­cided to clean up and vis­ited the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre for the first time in Jan­uary 2017.

The re­cov­ered ad­dict has been em­ployed as a well test­ing su­per­vi­sor for over a year now, be­sides a stint in a Saudi rig. Back with his wife and two chil­dren, he said he has got his fam­ily and life back, thanks to Shuroq al Amal al Alamia and Dr Zahra.

Dr Zahra started Shuroq al Amal al Alamia in 2015 to re­ha­bil­i­tate drug ad­dicts. A non-profit cen­tre un­der the su­per­vi­sion of and li­censed by the Min­istry of Health, it is reg­is­tered with the Min­istry of Com­merce and cer­ti­fied by Royal Oman Po­lice.

“Par­ents who had money took their chil­dren to Bahrain, Egypt, In­done­sia, Tan­za­nia… for treat­ment. There was no fa­cil­ity in Oman. So what hap­pened to ad­dicts whose par­ents had no money?” Dr Zahra said, ex­plain­ing what led to the open­ing of the cen­tre. “We treat male ad­dicts who are 18 and older, but ad­dicts as young as 11 and as old as 65 come to us.”

ROAD TO RE­COV­ERY

Op­er­at­ing from a rented villa in Al Hail North, it is equipped with detox­i­fi­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties, two meet­ing halls, ten bed­rooms, a gym, recre­ation room and a kitchen. Staff in­clude two psy­chol­o­gists, three coun­sel­lors from the Min­istry of Awqaf and Re­li­gious Af­fairs, a phys­i­cal trainer, an HR trainer, a job trainer and se­cu­rity.

With a ca­pac­ity to ad­mit 30 ad­dicts, the cen­tre em­ploys Nar­cotics Anony­mous’ in­ter­na­tional pro­gramme, treat­ing them for the phys­i­cal and men­tal de­pen­dence on drugs be­fore bol­ster­ing them spir­i­tu­ally against any temp­ta­tion. The road to re­cov­ery in­cludes yoga, med­i­ta­tion, art and golf, among other ac­tiv­i­ties.

“The phys­i­cal de­pen­dence on drugs can be treated in one or two weeks, fol­low­ing which we fo­cus on the mind. Any­thing can trig­ger a re­lapse, so we want to re­solve is­sues here be­fore they start a new life out­side these walls,” Dr Zahra said. The cen­tre re­quires a min­i­mum stay of six months be­fore ad­dicts are al­lowed out but they have to con­tinue com­ing back for coun­selling. “For re­cov­er­ing or even re­cov­ered ad­dicts, we have to be with them for life­time.”

Dr Zahra, how­ever, em­pha­sised that the cen­tre is not a ‘jail’. “Some of the ad­dicts are al­ready fa­mil­iar with life be­hind bars be­fore com­ing here. We don’t want them to think they’re in an­other pri­son when they come here. We tell them, ‘If you want to re­cover, this is the place for you. We are here to help you. And the door is open. Any time you feel you want to go home, come tell us. Just don’t jump the over wall,’” she pleads with her pa­tients.

The de-ad­dic­tion process also in­volves coun­selling the par­ent, Dr Zahra in­formed. “Peo­ple tend to treat drug users like crim­i­nals. They are just sick. Our so­ci­ety needs to un­der­stand that this is a dis­ease. You can be an ad­dict of cof­fee, tea, food, shop­ping, sleep­ing… we are all ad­dicts of some­thing. It is a be­hav­iour.”

Urg­ing a change in the ap­proach to drug ad­dic­tion, Dr Zahra said, “Par­ents think ad­mit­ting hav­ing a drug ad­dict son will spoil their rep­u­ta­tion in so­ci­ety. That if neigh­bours come to know there’s an ad­dict, they won’t visit. Peo­ple get di­vorced be­cause of drug ad­dic­tion.”

FIND­ING FUNDS

Dr Zahra coun­selled cancer pa­tients in SQU Hospi­tal be­fore she started work­ing with ad­dicts. She has since trained as a ther­a­pist in dif­fer­ent ar­eas of drug ad­dic­tion and mood change and holds a Master’s de­gree and a PhD from Cairo Univer­sity.

Af­ter at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence on drug ad­dic­tion, she be­came aware of the sit­u­a­tion. “I started re­search­ing and found out the ex­tent of the prob­lem. I also came to know about the Al Hayat As­so­ci­a­tion and got in­volved in its work, coun­selling ad­dicts and par­ents at the cor­rec­tional clinic.” Al Hayat shut down in 2017.

But soon af­ter open­ing Shuroq al Amal al Alamia in 2015, she started run­ning into fund­ing is­sues which con­tinue today. “I ask peo­ple to adopt in­di­vid­ual cases so that we can treat them,” she said, adding that cor­po­rate en­ti­ties and smaller busi­nesses have con­trib­uted since its open­ing.

“In the first year, a bank adopted two pa­tients. An­other cor­po­rate en­tity paid rent for six months. A prom­i­nent busi­ness paid the rent for six months in 2016 and 2019. Com­pa­nies who pre­fer to give anony­mously have helped to keep the cen­tre run­ning,” she said.

“Once they adopt a case for treat­ment, some peo­ple con­tinue to pay till the ad­dict is re­ha­bil­i­tated. But many oth­ers stop af­ter one or two months. What will an ad­dict do if the treat­ment fund­ing stops? I can’t ask him to go. He’ll re­lapse. I’d rather keep him here for the sake of his re­cov­ery,” Dr Zahra said, re­veal­ing the daily strug­gle she faces in run­ning the cen­tre with­out proper fund­ing.

De­spite the strug­gle to find fund­ing, Dr Zahra and her staff re­main com­mit­ted to Shuroq al Amal al Alamia, thanks to the suc­cess they’ve had with re­cov­ered ad­dicts like Saud who are now ac­tive mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.

“When a mother calls me and thanks me for her son, how do you think I feel? How would you feel if a mother is grate­ful to you for the fact that she can now sleep at night or can go for Um­rah? If a wife called to thank you for her hus­band’s re­cov­ery, how would you feel?” she asked with emo­tions ris­ing up her throat.

Re­call­ing his three-year painful sep­a­ra­tion from his wife, Saud said, “Among many other things she did for me, she also spoke with my wife’s fam­ily, ex­plain­ing to them that this is like a dis­ease that can be cured. I can’t thank Dr Zahra enough. This place gave me my life back. Thank you is not enough.”

Peo­ple tend to treat drug users like crim­i­nals. They are just sick. Our so­ci­ety needs to un­der­stand that this is a dis­ease Dr Zahra al Har­mali

(Mus­cat Daily)

Saud al Qasmi (left) with Dr Zahra al Har­mali in Shuroq al Amal al Alamia

(Top) Staff mem­ber Dr Souad Hosni, psy­chol­o­gist, dur­ing a coun­selling ses­sion at the cen­tre; be­sides detox­i­fi­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties, the cen­tre also has gym equip­ment (bot­tom) and a recre­ation room

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