Thousands of Gaza residents addicted to a popular painkiller have been forced into cold turkey withdrawal after Egypt destroyed thousands of smuggling tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza border.
According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, there has been a 50 percent increase in recent months in the number of patients seeking treatment for giving up Tramadol, a prescription painkiller sold illegally on the black market.
The opiate has similar addictive qualities to the hard drug heroin–and has became popular with thousands of residents, including children as young as 13 who are desperate to escape the misery of daily life in Gaza.
Tramadol addicts typically require hospital treatment to deal with the withdrawal symptoms, which include severe abdominal pains, insomnia, chronic joint pain, and, in some cases, suicidal urges. Aid agencies are struggling to provide the necessary support because of a lack of funds.
Khadra Said, a senior official in the health ministry’s psychiatric unit, said that since the Egyptian military set out last year to destroy more than 2,000 of the illegal tunnels, Tramadol had become ever harder to find on the black market, driving up prices. “In the worsening economic conditions in the aftermath of the summer war [with Israel] we are seeing double the patients needing our services, after being forced to give up.”
Tramadol first appeared in Gaza in 2007. It was easily obtainable from Egypt and cost less than $0.13 a pill. In 2010, the Egyptian Forensic Medicine Authority reported that 15,000 males in Gaza — about 30 percent of those aged from 14 to 30 — were users.
The 51-day war with Israel last year, in which 2,200 Palestinians were killed and more than 17,000 homes destroyed, boosted the popularity of the “escapist” drug.
The Egyptian Armed Forces stepped up efforts to clear the tunnels last October, pushing Tramadol prices to $2.50 a pill — even as unemployment has soared, making the pills unaffordable to users (most of whom hail from poorer communities).
Yesterday, Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem reported that the Egyptian army has destroyed 69 tunnels along the border with the Gaza Strip since March. 28. This puts the total number of tunnels destroyed at 285 since February, according to the Egyptian Army.
h/t: The Times
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth