In Morocco, Heroin Addiction Sweeps Cannabis Corridor


In a filthy squat in a beach town in northern Morocco, drug customers inject and smoke heroin, a somewhat current scourge plaguing a area lengthy recognized for cannabis and contraband.

Rachid says he does absolutely nothing with his life, except heroin.

“I shoot up 4 or 5 instances a day,” the 34-year-old stated, breathing raggedly.

He shows his arms, scarred from a decade of injecting, just before taking a sniff of glue to “prolong the higher”.

Half a dozen other individuals are shooting up or smoking heroin alongside Rachid in the squat, situated behind a police station in M’diq, a Mediterranean resort close to the city of Tetouan.

Heroin addiction is a somewhat new scourge plaguing Morocco which is recognized worldwide for the hashish made in the country’s mountainous Rif area Photo: AFP / FADEL SENNA

A dose of the potent opiate they heat on aluminium foil sells for amongst two.eight and six.five euros ($three-7) for a tenth of a gram.

Just about every week, a group from the Association for the Fight Against AIDS (ALCS) comes to the squat to hand out syringes to protect against the spread of illnesses like HIV and hepatitis.

The sale and consumption of heroin is illegal in Morocco, but thanks to the efforts of ALCS in Tetouan, “it is pretty uncommon that customers are arrested for their personal individual consumption”, stated Dr Mohamed El Khammas.

He runs the harm reduction programme launched by ALCS in 2009, which combines awareness raising, distribution of components like clean needles and screening.

“The concept is not to moralise, but to assistance the user to lessen damaging effects,” Khammas stated.

Moroccan addicts smoke heroin in a squat behind a police station in the Moroccan city of M'diq near Tetouan Moroccan addicts smoke heroin in a squat behind a police station in the Moroccan city of M’diq close to Tetouan Photo: AFP / FADEL SENNA

Cannabis routes

In this area, recognized worldwide for its hashish made in the Rif mountains, heroin use is a somewhat current improvement that is expanding exponentially, specialists say.

“It really is a public overall health priority, particularly as the heroin getting sold is pretty undesirable top quality: it is mixed with talcum powder, paracetamol and glue,” Khammas stated.

The standard user is a “single man, aged 30-35 with tiny or no education who has never ever worked or operates on an occasional basis,” according to a 2014 report from the National Observatory on Drugs and Addiction (ONDA).

The northern urban centres of Tetouan, Tangier and Nador are Morocco’s worst impacted regions.

The spread of heroin is facilitated by the “good population mobility” amongst southern Europe and northern Morocco, and the enhanced use of “properly-established cannabis routes” by traffickers from Latin America to smuggle cocaine and heroin to Europe, ONDA stated.

A Moroccan addict stands in a cemetery overlooking Tetouan, a common spot for drug users A Moroccan addict stands in a cemetery overlooking Tetouan, a typical spot for drug customers Photo: AFP / FADEL SENNA

These drug barons also barter heroin for cannabis in the Rif, according to ALCS employees.

The quantity of heroin customers in Morocco is unknown.

According to ALCS, there are probably a number of thousand heroin customers in Tetouan alone, a city of 380,000 persons, which was as soon as the seat of the Spanish administration beneath the dictator Francisco Franco.

‘Rock bottom’

Hassna, a 46-year-old ALCS caseworker, distributes clean drug paraphernalia from her backpack to customers gathered in the M’diq squat.

“We urge them not to share syringes, we accompany them to overall health centres and we attempt to convince them to take care of themselves,” she stated.

Rachid stated he is “incapable of quitting”.

But he does want access to methadone: “That is all we ask,” he stated.

This opioid substitute is distributed by addiction remedy centres in Tetouan, but in “insufficient amounts”, Rachid stated.

“Withdrawal is terrible, you have cramps, anxiousness,” stated his companion Mohamed, a waxen-faced 24-year-old with a syringe buried in his tattooed arm.

Just about every evening, an ALCS healthcare automobile is parked in a distinctive place, with a medical professional, nurse and field workers on hand.

After a week, the group parks close to a cemetery overlooking Tetouan, a typical spot for customers.

A single of them, a 56-year-old named Stated, stated he “lost every thing” for the reason that of heroin.

“I am at rock bottom,” he stated.

“The hardest component is on the social level,” 37-year-old Abdelilah stated.

“I lost 30 kilos (66 pounds) for the reason that of this crap. When an old pal sees me in the street, he appears away.”


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