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

MV+ News Desk | September 15, 2022

“Everyone around me sees me as not human. My humanity is questioned every day,” says Ali, a 30-year-old struggling with drug addiction, from Huvadhoo. 

“I have been dealing with addiction since I was 18 years old. I started when I was a kid but I got out of it on my own without any rehabilitation program. During the sobriety, I got married and had two kids with my wife but I relapsed back into the same old patterns of addictions when they jailed me citing an old case.”

Ali was sent to jail for 22 months. After he was released, he went back to my family only to find out his wife wanted a divorce.

He says, “My wife wanted a divorced. I was lonely and depressed because of the things, and I started consuming drugs again.”

“I tried to get sober again and successfully got clean this time too. But because of another old case the police brought me to Male’ under the courts order. I begged them to let me stay in the Island as I was clean. I told them that I can give urine everyday if they needed proof.”

However, the police brought him to Male’ for court hearings which has still not been scheduled. Ali has been living on the streets in Malé ever since. He states that, “If I wasn’t sent here by the court order, I don’t think I would have been in this current situation. I would’ve stayed clean.”

NDA (National Drug Agency) has been unresponsive and unsupportive when Ali reached out for help. Since moving to Malé, his addiction has gotten worse. 

“Like I said, if I was back in my island, I would have stayed sober, but this move has made my addiction worse than before. This is the second time the state has dragged me out of my island while I was clean”

“I make a living out of cleaning bikes and it’s hard. I can barely make any money most of the days.”

Nowadays, Ali lives on the streets. It’s hard for him to commute to NDA during peak work hours, since he is unemployed and barely makes any money. 

“How am I supposed to go to places when I’m a homeless addict?”

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.