AN expert on narcotics addiction in Bahrain has urged people to reconsider how they view addicts and addiction in general, likening it to a disease that needs to be cured.
Ammar Alhasan of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Bahrain believes that a non-judgemental attitude and true compassion towards users looking to get clean are vital in helping people overcome their challenges.
“Addiction is a disease, and not a disgrace,” Mr Alhasan told the GDN.
“It is an illness and must be treated as such, and that is what NA Bahrain aims to do.
“We provide a safe space for people looking to get clean, one where they can talk without judgement against them.”
NA Bahrain started in 1985 after a group of users decided they wanted to get clean and stay clean. One of the addicts had heard of the Narcotics Anonymous programme from overseas, and was aware of its steps and traditions.
The group then got together and started meeting on a timely basis in an attempt to share their strengths, weaknesses, desire and to support each other.
The programme became the first-of-its-kind in the Arab world and started to expand to other countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The group is now officially registered and recognised by the Social Development Ministry, Health Ministry and the Interior Ministry as a non-profit society dedicated to providing a community service.
These days, about 15 to 30 people on average attend weekly meetings held all over the island, including at its centre in Tubli, as well as hospitals and societies around the country.
The group includes a mixture of men and women, both young and elderly, with the youngest participant in his teens and the oldest close to pension age.
The meetings are closed to the public to provide a sense of much-needed anonymity to the individuals, however open meetings can be held on request.
The group is open to all addicts, both citizens and expats, with the only membership requirement being the desire to get clean.
“We welcome all newcomers without judgement, and all we ask is the desire to abstain from using,” said Mr Alhasan. “An addict is a person whose life is dominated by drugs, they are in the grip of an illness.
“As long as they have the desire to overcome that illness, we will help them.
“We try to help them in many ways with a stepped approach and suggest they attend 90 meetings.
“We introduce them to councils and people to guide them, offer them the chance to embrace community service and encourage them to find a higher power, which is, of course, Allah the Almighty.
“It is completely anonymous – no names or pictures are shared.”
On March 16 and 17, the society held its 38th convention at the Alumni Club in Adliya with the theme ‘Together We Can’.
It was attended by 176 people from all over the GCC, as well as countries like Egypt and Morocco, all of whom amassed a combined ‘clean time’ of 653 years.
“We sent a powerful message that day,” said Mr Alhasan. “It was a very successful convention, and we hope to use that momentum to start a united Arab NA one day.
“We dream of an officially recognised Arab NA and we hope to make that a reality,” he said.
Now, following the success of the convention, Mr Alhasan is aiming to set up ‘women only’ meetings in the near future.
“We will soon have meetings specifically for women,” he said. “We found that some have an easier time talking to other women rather than men, so these meetings should prove especially beneficial for them.”
The GDN reported back in October that a proposal was made to set up rehabilitation centres for women with drug addiction to cater to citizens, residents and medical tourists. The proposal was made by a team of young Bahrainis who took part in a six-month advanced democracy education course by the Young Parliamentarian Forum organised by the Youth Pioneer Society.
Mr Alhasan has also urged addicts to give themselves an opportunity to get better. “Give yourself a chance, we do not care about your religion, what drugs you have used or how rich or poor you are, we just want to help,” he added.
“New members are the most important people in any meeting, and should you have the desire, we will go above and beyond to help.”
For any enquiries for yourself or your loved ones, you can contact Bahrain NA using their 24/7 helpline at +973 17533558, or by emailing them at [email protected].