The state tells juvenile drug addicts to "sink-or-swim"
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Twenty-year old Kire from Kozle settlement is happy to be alive. Although as a heroin addict he went through hell and sold almost everything he owned, says that the fact he is here now to talk about the problems is a real miracle.
“I started when I was 15; first I used other drugs like cocaine and ecstasy, and then switched to heroin, although it is not a prerequisite to start with heroin. I wanted to try it as I had heard that it was a drug that gives you a great feeing…The feeling cannot be described, but the more you take, the more it kills you. Soon I started looking for heroin everywhere and moved in those circles…sometimes I had it, some other time someone else had it, but I had to get to the drug, there was no escape”, says young Kire.
He says he did not think at all of quitting drugs, until the last money he had, started to dry up.
“At moments when I had no money I started to give personal items to usurers or sell from home things such as a laptop, a watch, gold. When there was not even a penny and all the springs were dried, the desire was born to quit so I started with methadone. I could not buy it legally because I was underage so I bought it illegally from Tetovo and Gostivar, always careful not to use the same needle with the others”, he added.
Although giving up was very difficult, with body pains, sleeplessness, nightmares and sweats, yet he faced the process.
However, not all are as lucky as this young man. Some of the young addicts do not have families that will support them in the healing process or come from dysfunctional families in which some of the parents themselves are addicted to drugs. For them, the state has not had a solution so far.
In Macedonia there is a complete absence of a specially designed juvenile drug addiction program. Young addicts, who are less than 18, instead of being involved in special programs for treatment and re-socialization, are currently left to get by and survive.
From the civil society sector they say that the fact that the state has no programs to treat young addicts is a big problem. The registered medicines for addiction treatment such as methadone and buprenorphine cannot be taken under the age of 16, but despite that, for the last three years they have not treated a single young person under 18 with these two drugs. Young people are now occasionally treated in the existing institutions, it is usually the Neuropsychiatry Clinic, in the special section for children and adolescents, but there is no specialized treatment program for youth under 18.
There is no protocol for medical treatment of minors and although according to some sources in the civil sector, a working group has been recently formed to write this protocol, it has not been published yet.
Vlatko Dekov of NGO HOPS – Healthy Options says that only according to the data regarding the number of overdose of opiates, mainly heroin, from 2001 to 2005 there was a total of 1,436 overdose interventions, 606 or 42.2% interventions for children, or aged less than 18, there were about 600 interventions for minor overdosed users.
“Once we have the data that there is such a population, treatment should be offered, but we do not have one. This is a big problem because apart from the fact that there is no medical treatment, there are neither programs for resocialization nor rehabilitation. When it comes to children, it is the key thing. If we only have a medical program, it might give results, but for many children, especially street children who come from poor or dysfunctional families, we will not solve the problem just by giving them medication”, says Dekov.
According to the information by HOPS, juvenile addicts currently operate under the premise “sink-or-swim”. If a minor comes from a family that is more functional or has more financial resources, they get by. The problem becomes much greater for children from poorer families, or those who do not have families and need to be treated.
“The most important thing is to open medical and social programs and to register the drug for as younger age as possible and those programs which open not to allow mixing minors and adults”, said Vlatko Dekov.
According to civic organizations, the Ministries of Labor and Social Policy and the Ministry of Health are those who need to develop such programs and continuously cooperate in their implementation.
Although we have sent questions to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and the Ministry of Health about what they do in this area and if they are planning to open such specialized treatment programs, until the publication of this text we did not receive a reply.
Doctor Darko Kostovski, coordinator of the Center for Addiction Treatment in the Hospital “8th September”, says that the treatment of minors and adolescent addicts in the country is inadequate in terms of the dimension of the drug abuse problem.
“The institutions that treat this population within the health system are neither designed nor trained for the problem. The Pediatric Clinic has never treated addictions, the Psychiatric Clinic has child psychiatry department, but the staff there is too busy with psychiatric cases and does not treat addictions, they cannot be treated in the psychiatric hospital Bardovci because by law they are not allowed to treat minor people. Also, methadone is not available for minors and they must not give checkups to minors”, says Kostovski adding that stigmatizing attitudes towards these people and unnecessary moralizing take us away from solving the problem.
From 1999 until the end of 2012 HOPS contacted a total of 3,410 drug users. 2,291 of them were male and 256 female, while for 863 persons there is no data neither on sex, nor age at the time recorded in HOPS. As of 2012, the database recorded a total of 43 persons who at the time of the first contact were under 18. According to HOPS, in 2012 9 different juvenile drug users aged 5-17 were contacted, five females and four males. In 2012 one person died. By type of drug they used, 3 used glue, 6 regularly used heroin and occasionally glue, methadone and benzodiazepines.
Editor: Tamara Causidis