The Seychelles is suffering from a drug epidemic. Nearly 10% of its 94000 population are addicted to heroin, according to the Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation (APDAR) in the Seychelles.
Per capita, the Seychelles suffers from the highest rate of heroin abuse in the world. Heroin makes the long journey from Central Asia, especially Afghanistan, before being smuggled to the islands via East Africa. Made up of 115 islands, the Seychelles has many porous borders, which makes them hard to monitor and easy for the drugs to come into the country. Rather than attempting a “war on drugs”, which would criminalise the large proportion of heroin users in the Seychelles, the head of the anti-drug agency has introduced a Portuguese-style drug policy – considering drug addiction as a chronic diseased to be treated.
Heroin users in the Seychelles have two options:
- Join a high threshold Methadone Maintenance Programme (MMP), which includes a period of in-patient treatment where they must commit to detoxification
- Or the low threshold programme, which focuses on harm reduction
Individuals have access to medical and psychosocial support under both programmes.
Patrick Herminie, who had previously attended one of the programmes, has stated “currently, we have over 2000 people registered in one of our programmes and 68% of those are now gainfully employed”. Each morning he visits one of the country’s mobile methadone clinics, white vans that are manned by drug counsellors and qualified nurses to give the correct dose of methadone to recovering addicts. People line up outside the open windows of the van, ready to show their ID. Their name, the date and time are logged into a spreadsheet on receipt of the information and the correct dose of methadone is distributed to them.
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