#Conundrum, #Drug Abuse, #earth, #KamandaKoroma, #love, #lust, #nature, #poem, #poetry, #sierra-leone, #the human-condition, #thoughts, Uncategorized

The Opioid Trail: Tramadol Abuse in Sierra Leone

It was a bright day with blue skies, sunny with just the right amount of soft winds. One of the rare blessings of residing in the coastal city of Freetown in the dry season is the beautiful weather at that time of the year. I was riding shotgun, a friend at the wheel, a Drake song blaring on the stereo.

Destination: Tokeh Beach.

Stuck for over half an hour in the notorious traffic jam between Wilkinson Road and Lumley, frustrated about the delay, we were accosted by one of the street hawkers peddling his goods. He approached the car window on my side , peered in then tapped me by my arm , then laughed and shouted our nicknames. It may have been that there was no sign of recognition on our faces. I did a double take when I recognized that resounding laughter, then slowly as I stared at him, it was as if the years fell away from his facial features layer by layer.

This was an old friend from high school. It had been years since we last saw him.

We located a suitable parking space, pulled over and kick start conversation. We reminisced about school days and the funny shenanigans we masterminded. All the while we laughed, I noticed the premature wrinkles and hardened features on his once gentle face. It was obvious the years hadn’t been kind to him. He explained to us that a string of family issues and financial problems had led him down the path to the depths of drug abuse.

Tramadol he said was the only reprieve he had from an otherwise cold world that had turned it’s back on him. We offered advice and assistance to him but he only shook his head and remarked that the pills had no addictive tendencies. After several prodding from us, he became withdrawn and said he had to return to his trading. We exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch and went our separate ways.

I called his number a few times with no response.

It would be the last time I ever saw him again.

This was two years ago.

Since then, the onslaught of Tramadol has continued unabated amongst the youths of Sierra Leone like a vengeful succubus.

Tramadol is an opioid drug that is prescribed for relief from moderate or moderately severe pain by medical doctors. It was considered as a better alternative to most narcotic analgesic medications.

Somehow, along the lines this drug became the go to drug for quick highs and mood enhancing. The myth that followed in it’s wake was the deceptive talk of it’s non addictive qualities.
In Sierra Leone, the ghettos, slums and even in club scenes, it has assumed many other attributes. Many non-prescribed users boast of it’s nature to boost their sex drive, others claim that it is the cure for their work stress and other problems.

These non facts are spread by quacks, and charlatans who sell these drugs from their stalls, and petty traders who have no medical qualification in that regard. The department of health regulation in the country is ill-equipped to tackle the issue as they are under funded and lack the necessary man power to tackle these illegal and counterfeit vendors.

Children as young as 9 have been known to take Tramadol.

I once encountered a scuffle that had just been separated, it was a teen who purchased the drug with the intention of taking it so as to give him the “bravery and heart” to stab a friend whom he had quarreled with over different views after a football match. If not for timely intervention, it would have been a lethal saga.

Stories like these and more are abound in the neighborhoods of Sierra Leone. Tramadol is especially popular amongst female street walkers and ‘Okada’ bike riders who claim it keeps the wind and cold away from them on cold nights because it numbs their senses.
You are bound to see either of the two popping tramadol like bubblegum or altoids .

In a country that has a considerable number of it’s denizens still clinging onto to superstitious beliefs, combating mental health issues and drug abuse is an up hill task. There’s a high chance of an addict to be taken to a church or voodoo shrine for supernatural delivery and demonic exorcism than to the hospital for medical assistance.

Indeed, there are stories of many individuals who when rehabilitated from abusive lifestyles by either a result of distance from it or when medically treated are bound to believe and accept the brainwashed superstitious narrative of family members that it was divinely manifested rather than their actions.

Surely, faith in a supreme deity goes with a strong understanding of care for ones health as is echoed in most religions.

Addiction to Tramadol causes a dependency which lead many young individuals to resort to theft as a desperate measure to satiate their high. The higher the dosage they take, the greater it elevates their mood which makes them to increase the dosage they consume. It’s not surprising that most tramadol addicts from impoverished backgrounds are identifiable at first glance when they are in withdrawal.

Mostly sweating, nervous, periods of swooning due to nausea, and a tendency to twitch as if restless. Developed stages of tramadol addiction are bound to make addicts, paranoid, delusional and subject to hallucinations.

During the just concluded election, this drug was in vogue as many politicians parceled it out in droves to supporters to use as a means to stimulate violence. It was not uncommon to see youths go berserk and self harm themselves or others before having fits of seizures. Yet no politician has ever been held accountable for the negative acts of derailing the future of scores of young men.

The lack of rehabilitation centres nationwide is another issue. What we have are a few institutions that have more in common with 17th Century asylums and madhouses like Bedlam and rife with questionable techniques of treating patients than they do with the modern methods of diagnosing and treating them.
There are very limited centres that offer adequate inpatient treatment with around the clock supervision that lasts for over a month.
Coupled with the fact that outpatient programs are almost non existent in this side of the world for evening or late therapy sessions after patients have been discharged to their homes.
It’s no small wonder that most addicts deteriorate beyond saving.
The taboo with which mental health is associated with makes it a hassle for the existence of peer group organizations to thrive in.

The health sector is in dire need of boosting and much adequate funding, to not only to treat the patients but also to police and regulate the influx of this drug into the borders of the country.

A nation is only as strong as it’s human resource.

We all must all do more to aid in the sensitization on the dangers of tramadol dependency and drug abuse as a whole.

Save lives. Regain friends.
Restore Families.

#Conundrum

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#earth, #love, #the human-condition, Uncategorized

​PERFORMATIVE ALLYSHIP IS NOT SOLIDARITY

These days to keep pace with the ‘social mediaverse’ and the endless debates that rage within it on issues affecting our world is almost an impossibility. The various hashtags and trending stories with newly coined phrases to describe things and make sense of them has accelerated.
Recently, I was surfing the web (is surfing still the right word to use?) when I happened upon the phrase “Performative Allyship”. It was mentioned in a post bashing the content of a certain tweet. From what I could gather, this was based on the need to differentiate between genuine solidarity and pretentious allying to a cause or plight of a set of people.

In essence, performative allyship is doing that minimum bit to gain approval and escape the tag of a silent neutral or a bigot. 

The stark truth is that what we call performative allyship now predates social media. It’s just a fancy way to describe hypocrites who want a pat on the back for their actions supporting a cause.
Solidarity in itself doesn’t stem from the need to put up a show but rather it is based on the honesty to stand with a cause to push for changes with or without an audience. 

Solidarity is activism. Yet it also involves knowing  when it doesn’t require your reaction when an oppressed individual expresses their distaste of the bias and uneven treatment they deal with. 

To play a role just for approval suggests at a deep seated self serving interest in one’s pysche. Whether it is based on the need to save face or ride on the wave where the wind blows, it hints at double standards.

In most cases these set of people who project this fake form of allying are likely to be upset when they are told of their actions and its harmful tendencies. These are the people who hop on ‘hot’ topics by sharing or retweeting but never calling out the same act when its done where there is no audience . What they care about is the fifteen minutes in the spotlight and not the issues at hand. Standing with an oppressed group requires listening, engaging and learning about their experiences. 

Mostly, performative allies tend to make statements which are counterproductive to the cause of oppressed groups and then feign ignorance. This hints at a either a failure to properly understand these issues and a lack of sincere solidarity. When one stands with a cause, the onus is on you to properly and thoroughly understand and grasp it. To project concern when you don’t really care, just to get off the hook makes your sentiments unhelpful. 

There’s a tendency for many people who belong to the oppressive group to think that distancing themselves from acts done to the oppressed groups exempts them from responsibility. Statements like ‘not all’ , ‘some’ , ‘tell us more’ ,’we are on the same side’ are a dead ringer and they do nothing to help groups that are marginalised. Systematic oppression is real and trying to detach yourself from the privileges you benefit from belonging to the oppressive group with these half hearted ‘not all’ phrases reeks of downplaying, diverting and glossing over the realities of the conversation.
I live in a side of the globe where many have still not come to terms with the dangers of oppression. In fact even those who profess to be ‘allies’ still hold some negative views towards those they claim to ally with. I once knew a certain individual who would rant on Facebook about the rights of women but was known to be domestically abusive towards his wife and also held the misogynist view that the place of women was in the kitchen. 
Individuals flick on the mask of solidarity as and when it is beneficial to them and their interests.

The bane of hyper masculinity and it’s privileges is soaked in deep in the fabric of Sierra Leone. You are bound to hear statements from males that ‘ a woman’ deserves a back hand once in a while when she steps out of line’ which is followed by gleeful laughter. The brainwash is such that  certain women have been so attuned to this brutal idea that they consider it a norm, sadly. Women are mostly not allowed to tell their stories. Incidents of rape are swept under the rug with blame cast on the lady of her ‘improper clothing’, mostly these women are married of to their abusers.

Oppression is a disease to society. If  any society utilises the denial route to deflect responsibility and not come to terms with their oppressive mentality towards the oppressed, such a society supports systematic oppression.

Solidarity is paramount and doesn’t equate to only displaying it to get a nod of approval. Doing it to be defined as the ‘new cool’ , or garner more followers/likes for selfish purpose is not solidarity. The singular purpose of standing with the oppressed is for them to achieve equity and equality. Doing the right thing doesn’t mean you deserve to be praised, hailed and then gifted with a bag of goodies.
Solidarity is not for  show, it’s a duty.

#Conundrum

Artwork by Morrison Jusu (Emjay)