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“Ice”, the drug that ravages Sudanese youth

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She is nicknamed “Ice” or “Satan”: in recent weeks, many Sudanese have been alarmed by the increase in the consumption of an extremely addictive synthetic drug, methamphetamine. To compensate for the insufficiency of the measures taken by the authorities considered to be too timorous, activists have set up initiatives on the ground, like Lubna Ali, president of the NGO Bitmakaly.

Since early January, many Sudanese activists have been posting awareness videos under the hashtag #save your sonto warn of the dangers of methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine is a synthetic drug with devastating long-term effects. It comes in crystalline form, which can evoke crushed glass, or ice. And is generally consumed smoked by means of a pipe.

This awareness video produced by a young Tiktoker features a young drug addict who does not hesitate to hit his father to take money from him and buy methamphetamine.

“We encourage families to overcome the feeling of shame”

Lubna Ali founded Bitmakaly in 2013. This NGO runs a drug rehabilitation center in Khartoum. It also conducts awareness campaigns among young people in the Sudanese capital.

Until 2019, the most abused drug in Sudan was cannabis. There were also mind-altering drugs like Tramadol and Captagon. Methamphetamine started to appear after the revolution, probably due to political instability.

It is a very dangerous drug and one that worries a lot, because you can become addicted from the first intake and its effects are very harmful to your health. It can cause stroke, cardiac arrest, kidney problems, suicidal tendencies.

Unfortunately it has become trendy among young people. It is mainly consumed by young people aged 13 to 27.

It has spread widely in the country. In Khartoum, no neighborhood is spared. Some crimes are linked to its consumption, especially sexual assaults and thefts. It also causes auditory and visual hallucinations, delusional flare-ups, among others.

Awareness campaign led by the NGO Bitmakaly, on January 18, in a university in Khartoum.

Young people under the effect of this drug can stay awake for entire nights, sometimes for several consecutive days. The person is irritated, on edge. It doesn’t take much for her to start a fight.

At the level of the detoxification center that we manage, we encourage families to overcome the feeling of shame, the social stigma, because methamphetamine addiction can be cured. We tell them: “Get your child treated. There is no difference between a psychiatrist and a general practitioner”.

On January 3, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, president of the Sovereignty Council, the body that runs the country, announced the launch of a campaign against drugs. Since then, a captagon manufacturing plant has notably been dismantled. But methamphetamine dealers are not worried, denounce activists who say they are disappointed so far with the reaction of the authorities.

During this announcement, Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, author of a coup that interrupted the democratic process on October 25, 2021, also accused “certain parties of distributing narcotics to young people, under the guise of promoting democracy”. , implying that the young people who demonstrate regularly against the coup d’etat would for the most part be under the influence of drugs.

Lubna Ali disputes these accusations:

There is no proof of this. We haven’t had any patients participating in the protests. We have mainly welcomed young people suffering from post-traumatic stress, because their relatives were killed or injured in the demonstrations. Suddenly, they took refuge in particular in methamphetamine, to forget their grief.

At the level of the center that we manage in Khartoum, we have taken care of 223 young people in recent months. Eight of them fled after a few days; 113 are cared for inside the centre, and 100 others have benefited from outpatient care, at home.

But the demand is very high, and most detox centers can no longer accommodate patients. I hope that the next government will put policies in place to take care of these young people.

The hopes of many activists – who are calling in particular for the care provided in detoxification centers to be reimbursed by social security – rest on the prospect of the formation of a civilian government in the months to come.

Indeed, military and civilian leaders signed a first crisis resolution agreement on December 5, 2022. The framework agreement was signed by General al-Burhane, paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo as well as several civilian groups, including the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) which were ousted in the coup.

It provides for a withdrawal of the army from power to allow political groups to form a civilian government.

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