Personal Stories of Drug Addiction and Public Perception: A Photo Stories Series

MV+ News Desk | September 12, 2022

“At 13 years old, I started taking drugs. After I got into trouble at school, they suspended me. I wasn’t allowed to return and study back in school,” said Ali (not real name), who is a young person currently living in the streets.

At the tender age of 13, Ali first used drugs the day his brother was arrested for drug use, “it was the same packet my brother threw away before he was arrested.”

Instead of going into rehab, Ali tried to recover by himself. So, he decided to move back to his island. He realised that it was much easier to access drugs at home compared to Malé.

“I returned back to Malé to find work. I spent around MVR 500 on drugs almost every day.”

Ali states that he reached out to the rehab centres to recover from drug addiction. However, since he was prosecuted for previous drug charges, the centre refused to help him. “Since I was prosecuted in 2018, the rehab centres wouldn’t allow me into the program. They weren’t very responsive or supportive.”

“After I got married, I didn’t consume any drugs. I have a five-year-old kid now. I hadn’t really thought about it since his birth. But one day, my friend offered and I couldn’t stop myself, so I ended up relapsing again.”

“After I relapsed, I was sent to jail for about six months. During that time, I got sober and returned home but my wife didn’t want to be with me anymore.”

Without any help from the rehab centre, Ali hasn’t been able to find housing or shelter. He seeks shelter wherever he can find.

“I’ve seen my brother use drugs since I was 10 years old. I’m 34 now. Nowadays, my brother is sober and hasn’t consumed any drugs.”

Public perception of addiction needs to change in the Maldives. Addiction is born out of several socio-economic factors that cannot be distilled down to just morality. It is only after we treat addiction as a health crisis rather than a moral failing, we can change systematic issues hindering the treatment of addiction.