As a teen, when you pick up your 1st cigarette, it’s an exciting experience and fun way to pass time. In a few months it’s 2 cigarettes a day then 3 and more. Then the ‘cooler kids’ introduce marijuana and without realizing it you are consuming stronger stuff by the month. Meet 23 year old Sheila who spent 6 years on all sorts of drugs including those from pharmacies like rohypnol, Codeine and valium. LinkmeUG caught up with her at a rehabilitation center in Kampala.
Sheila, where does your story?
Sheila: When I was in S.3 my sister introduced me to alcohol, I began with whisky and beer. Then by the end of the year, her friends introduced us to cigarettes. We would go out without our parents knowing to drink and smoke. Little did I know I was getting addicted.
How did alcohol and cigarettes in high school affect you?
Sheila: I began missing school, taking more alcohol by the day though our parents didn’t find out. Everything fell apart when our parents separated. I could not take it so I ran away from home with my boyfriend. I left Mbale for Kampala to stay with a family I didn’t know.
What was your life like and did you continue smoking and drinking?
Sheila: Oh yes, this family was unusual, everyone smoked and drunk alcohol. Their father had died sometime back and the mother, being a single mother, was struggling to look after her family. We all drunk and smoked in the house freely. But I was not happy because their mother didn’t love me. I longed for my own mother but felt too embarrassed to go back home.
So didn’t you ever get in touch with your mother?
Sheila: I called her after 2 years and she said she was looking for me. She asked me to go back home but I didn’t go back for another year. My mom didn’t give up on me; she called me and finally got me to YMCA to study there. Remember I had not completed S.4. Any way, I failed to study at YMCA because on top of the alcohol and smoking, I had added marijuana. On realizing that I was not studying, my mum came and took me back to Mbale to study there, but that was the worst mistake ever.
Earlier you wanted to go back to go back home, so why was this a bad move?
Sheila: Yes I was glad to be back in Mbale after 6 years and glad to be with my family again. But it was not the same, my sister had gotten a child and I had missed a lot in my family. My mum enrolled me to a university there to study a certificate. This is when my life took a turn for the worse. I met some foreign students there with whom we drank and smoked out of control. It is there that I learnt about medical drugs and how they could take you to “heights” better than Marijuana. These boys introduced me to Tramadol, Codeine, Rohypnol and Valium. These drugs are strong; they kill pain by making you numb.
So Sheila, young people are taking these drugs, what are they killing?
Sheila: Boredom. Plain and simple boredom and to get a drowsy feeling that lasts longer than marijuana’s effect. Tramadol makes you feel like you’re floating, Valium relaxes the muscles and Codeine makes you sleepy and kind of dizzy. And Rohypnol made us forget everything.
How long did you take these drugs and what was their effect?
Sheila: I took them for about a year or so. These drugs incidentally made me hate smoking but what they did to me was worse. I started itching, stammering, lost appetite, and weight. My life got worse, I had rashes, skin peeling off, I was always angry and restless. It was terrible. Eventually I even dropped out of the Mbale University and run away from home again. This time I came to stay with a Sudanese friend who smoked more than I did.
So how did you get in touch with this South Sudanese friend?
Sheila: She was a friend from I had met some time back. she is a south Sudanese but she too drunk a lot of alcohol and smoked a packet of cigarettes at a time. I resorted to marijuana again and that is when the withdrawal symptoms from the pharmaceutical drugs set in. I couldn’t sleep without drugs; I was always tense, felt cold. I hated myself and prayed to God to help me.
One day while I was in Casablanca, [a bar in Kampala] a friend saw me looking so low and asked me what was wrong. I told him my story and he was so touched. He took me to his mother so that they could get me help but when she looked at me, she didn’t want me there because I was horrible, it was like I was running mad, I was so restless. There is a time I failed to sleep for 3 days. I actually wanted to sleep but I didn’t have sleep because I had no access to weed [Marijuana] in that house. I nearly jumped over the fence to go look for it. That is when my friend’s parents decided to get me a rehabilitation center. They paid for my 3 months rehab and I can never thank them enough.
Sheila was speaking to our reporter recently.
LinkmeUG got in touch with a doctor to explain about the effects of drugs. Dr. Owor Onyango says most of these drugs especially Tramadol and Valium are not meant to be accessed by the public or to be taken without a doctor’s prescription. He says constant use of Valium causes irregular heartbeat, makes one restless and is addictive. Codeine causes constipation, gives the body a chill all the time. A combination of these therefore can only spell doom for the user. Dr. Onyango says users of drugs create a tiny world for themselves choosing to be alone, withdrawn from society and because the person is always numb, speechless and sleepy, anything can go wrong.
Although Sheila’s tongue is still heavy, her skin and weight are back to normal. She is recovering and her mother has since been to the center 3 times. The family has made up and sheila has decided to go back to school. She hope to inspire youths about the dangers of taking drugs.
LinkmeUG brings you counselors, call them and get help today. Esther Karamagi [for general counseling] 0702133998 / 0772438887
Hope and Beyond [for alcohol and drug addiction] 0701 481003 / 0772 481003
If you want some general advise, drop us an Email: [email protected] Your privacy will be respected.