MEDICALLY ASSISTED THERAPY

Push for methadone clinic in Lamu's drug hub

One was set up in Lamu West in March and so far 200 addicts have been transformed.

In Summary
  • Lamu East has 500 addicts

  • It is the largest consumer of drugs in Kenya

Juma Mwamvyoga is an addiction counsellor at the Lamu methadone clinic.
MEDICALLY ASSISTED THERAPY: Juma Mwamvyoga is an addiction counsellor at the Lamu methadone clinic.
Image: CHETI PRAXIDES

Lamu East is not just the largest consumer of drugs in Kenya but it is also the biggest peddling point for all narcotics coming into Lamu county.

There is however no significant infrastructure to save thousands of residents, young and old, who are hooked on drugs.

Area leaders, activists and elders have called for the establishment of a methadone clinic in the subcounty.

Lamu has only one such clinic, located at the King Fahd County Hospital in Lamu island, Lamu West, many kilometres away from drug users in Lamu East.

Pate, Mtangawanda, Siyu, Mbwajumwali, Tchundwa, Myabogi and Kizingitini islands are some of the notorious spots in Lamu East.

They are home to more than 500 drug addicts.

The result is crime is rampant in these areas. 

A methadone clinic was set up in Lamu island on March 5 this year, and since then at least 200 hard drug addicts have been reformed.

The clinic uses methadone as a medical substitute for opioids to wean addicts off the hard stuff. The pace gives their brain a chance to slowly adjust to the absence of heroin.

Methadone helps alleviate opioid cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms with minimal risk of tolerance and compulsive opioid use.

The initiative by the Muslims Education and Welfare Association is sponsored by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, through The United States Agency for International Development in partnership with the Lamu and national governments.

Juma Mwanvyoga, an addiction counsellor at the Lamu Medically Assisted Therapy clinic, said it is challenging for his team to reach addicts in Lamu East because of its location.

The Lamu East community is now demanding a similar facility.

An addict takes his dose of methadone at the Lamu clinic.
An addict takes his dose of methadone at the Lamu clinic.
Image: CHETI PRAXIDES

Methadone treatment requires consistency to be effective.

Mwamvyoga said some clients from east have been unable to keep up due to challenges in water travel and the fact that the areas are far apart.

Water transport in Lamu is very expensive and most of those in need of treatment cannot afford it on a daily basis.

“They have to travel from Lamu East daily. That’s why most have dropped out of the programme. As per the rules, we can’t take the treatment to them either. They must come here,” Mwamvyoga said.

He proposed a second clinic be set up at Faza or Kizingitini for easy access.

Lamu Woman Rep Ruweida Obbo also urged the government to set up a MAT clinic in Lamu East.

“The same way we put effort into fighting corruption and crime is the same way we should put effort into fighting this vice, with everything we can and in this case, a MAT clinic is the best weapon,” she said.

Lamu elder Mohamed Mbwana said the service should be extended to addicts in all corners of Lamu.

“If they want to solve the drug problem, they should ensure such facilities are accessible to all, not just by a few,” he said.

(Edited by Bilha Makokha)

The Lamu methadone clinic at King Fahd Hospital in Lamu island.
The Lamu methadone clinic at King Fahd Hospital in Lamu island.
Image: CHETI PRAXIDES