As in many other places around the world, heroin in Dar es Salaam takes its firmest grip among the young, unemployed and bored.
Hamadi was 18 when she first smoked heroin, as part of a koktelin (“cocktail”) with marijuana. I asked him what addiction was because I didn’t know. I took two hits and all of a sudden I felt cheerful and strong.” Hamadi fell in love fast, with both the guy and the heroin.
Few governments, donors or nonprofits in Africa work with heroin users.
Médecins du Monde (MDM), an international nonprofit that serves heroin users in Tanzania, estimates that fewer than 1 percent of drug users on the continent have access to support services, let alone treatment plans like methadone. In 2009 the national government publicly declared that its drug users needed evidence-based treatment options. in recent years, and it has gained popularity elsewhere around the world.
Nearly 60 percent of these users may live in Tanzania, UNODC believes, with a heavy concentration in the port city of Dar es Salaam.
(White heroin is sometimes called Obama.) “[The port] provides a lot of economic benefits, but unfortunately it also provides opportunities for an illicit trade in drugs,” said Brian Rettmann, who coordinates the United States’ President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in Tanzania.
“Prices for heroin here are some of the lowest [in the world], which has really caused an epidemic.” Since the country’s per capita income is just under 0, heroin’s low price allows Tanzanians across income groups to try it.
She lived with her father but would sometimes stay with a friend for several days at a time. Ellen Tuchman, who researches women’s substance abuse at New York University, said this story is not uncommon.
While partying with her friend one night, Hamadi met a man who, in 1998, offered her an oddly strong joint. “We know that social networks of women matter a lot, from adolescence onwards,” she said.