It is a Friday afternoon, around 3 pm when a team of journalists enter Isange Rehabilitation center, located in Ngoma Sector in Huye District in the Southern Province.
Some patients are playing different games like table tennis, chess, and board game; while others are watching and listening to music from a big television. Some however are either just sitting around or taking short walks in the room.
Patients are not obligated to give interviews to journalists and during the course discussions with them, some appear to be calmer and composed than the others.
They were willing to narrate the story of their lives. Some speak very good English as they studied from abroad before coming to the center, while others are adults who left their jobs because of drug abuse.
Huye Rehabilitation Centre is home to people who are between the ages of 18 and 35, people who got addicted to various forms of drugs, and are attended to by mental health professionals.
Across the centre, various announcements are hung on walls, like “If we catch you hiding a cigarette, you won’t smoke any during the whole week.”
The patients are attended to by nurses who are always dressed in white neat aprons.
Norbert Mutangana, one of the nurses trained in mental health said that one of the ways they use to deal with the patients is the practice of ergotherapy, a kind of remedial which is intended to occupy patients.
Mutangana says they try to give them things to do to change their daily habits, so that they can beat drug addiction.
Within three years of operation, the center has received over 500 patients. The center has the capacity to accommodate at least 60 in-patients and hundreds of out-patients.
Dr Alfred Ngirababeyi, the head of psychiatric care at Huye Isange Rehabilitation centre reveals that most of the patients are addicted to heroin and Marijuana and that their drug dependence ends up disrupting their daily productive life.
All patients share some a common root cause to their addiction and this includes growing up in an unhealthy environment, lack of parental care, growing up in mono-parental homes and peer influence especially for students.
“Some take it due to misinformation. Every person who uses drugs has met friends who claim to be experts on various recreational substances, and they’re happy to assure them that the risks are minimal and slowly develop dependence which may also come with more serious mental and overall health issues,” Ngirababeyi says.
He goes on to explain that when patients arrive at the center they receive an individual diagnosis which requires a thorough evaluation of blood, urine or other lab tests to assess drug use. It is results from these tests that indicate the right treatment depending on the addiction.
He also explained that the treatment depends on the drugs used and any related medical or mental health disorders a person may have.
Detox may involve gradually reducing the dose of the drug or temporarily substituting substances. Long-term follow-up is important to prevent relapse.
“To be treated from the centre, patients may follow a normal medical procedure, after that they may get a transfer or they can be sent by other rehabilitation centers after realizing the gravity of the drug impacts on them,” he said.
Damage on health and economy
Darius Gishoma, the Head of Mental Health Department at University of Rwanda’s College of Medicine and Health Sciences says drug use affects the part of the brain which normally stimulates happiness. When someone takes drugs, he feels extremely happy than in normal situations.
Gishoma adds that some people take drugs to be sexually stimulated and it works at the beginning, but later, the desire turns off forever.
“People who start drug abuse at a tender age have a high risk of getting affected than those who start when they are adults,” he said.
Ngirababyeyi further says that all drugs are addictive but some are more addictive than others. With frequent use, tolerance is built and addiction will develop.
More than Rwf7 billion has been spent on 13 intakes of Iwawa Rehabilitation center which comprises of 12,127 young people according to a report from the Ministry of Youth.
Drug abuse status
A report from Rwanda National Police shows that from 2013 to 2017, ‘Kanyanga’, a local brew was the highest drug consumed with 82,437 litres destroyed, followed by Cannabis with 17,807 kilograms, cocaine with 8.6 kilograms and 7.5 kilograms of Heroine.
The consumers are mostly between 18 and 35 years old. Local drugs are affordable to everyone. For instance in Kigali, one pellet of Cannabis is between Rfw200-400, while one liter of Kanyanga is Rfw2000.
Other local breweries contain a high degree of alcohol, are less expensive and their effects are quick, the report says.
Cocaine, Cannabis, Heroine known also as Mugo and Mairungi are some of the drugs manufactured from outside the country that are consumed locally. One gram of cocaine costs between Rfw80,000 to Rfw160,000 and its effect last 30 minutes.
Through treatment, an addict can be helped to regain a sober life, psychiatrics affirm.
Ngirababyeyi added that in the near future they will make an assessment to learn about the effectiveness of the program, see what their patients have become after treatment which will inform further interventions basing on identified strength and gaps.
“The majority of users and traders are located near the country’s borders where these drugs get imported from neighboring countries. I think when residents and authorities in such areas work together , it will intensify operations to stop them from entering the local market and significantly reduce drug consumption.
Dudestin Levis Clement, Kigali based video producer
Many people who are struggling with the negative effects of unemployment turn to alcohol or drugs to mitigate the discomfort and sense of helplessness they feel. I think the government and other stakeholders can examine ways to tap in to innovative ways to reduce unemployment rate among the youth.
Theogene Safari, a Parent /Kagugu resident
One of the most common reasons why people use drugs is to relieve various emotional problems. These may include anger, stress, anxiety, tension, boredom, and depression. Depending on what substance they’re using, they may feel blissfully oblivious, wonderfully happy or energized and confident.