February
2008
REPORTS
 
Vol. 4 No.1  
 

Invisible addiction

With one per cent of Bucharest’s population addicted to heroin, ‘The Diplomat’ reports on a drug attacking poor communities and children as young as nine years old. Report by Michael Bird
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“I’ve just been to the head doctor!” says a thin late teen in a baseball cap and anorak, talking to his friend in the reception area of a methadone treatment centre in Stefan Cel Mare, Bucharest.
“Was she pretty?” asks his friend, a 20 year-old in a hooded jacket.
He pauses.
“Yeah,” he adds, unconvinced.
The first boy is showing his friend the centre in the ‘Matei Bals’ Institute for Infectious Diseases, where around 200 of Bucharest’s 25,000 heroin addicts come to help themselves off the drugs with a course of opiate substitute, methadone.
The first boy shows his friend a table piled up with a giant pyramid of condoms.
“Look,” he says, “they’re all free! You can take as many as you like.”
“But,” says the second boy. “I’m not infected.”
In the clinical two-room building, former and mildly active drug users drop in, walk up to a water cooler, pull out a cup and pour it full. They sign in with a chemist, and then pop their methadone pills.
The institute used to allow users to take away the medication. But this encouraged some to pocket the pills and sell them on the street – where their value can be worth up to 20 times the wholesale cost.
Now, if most users want to take home the pills, the chemist crushes them with a pestle and mortar and then puts the remains in a plastic bag.

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