Heroin-addicted drivers in traffic

Heroin-addicted drivers in traffic

Uğur Okur is 28 years old. He was born in Erzurum, in eastern Turkey. In his childhood he was forced to go Quran courses in the summer and a school he never liked in the winter. For every mistake he made, he was beaten by his elder brother.

When his friend handed him a bag at the school yard, he sniffed and inhaled it two or three times and he enjoyed it. He started substance abuse like this. 

He was only 14 years old when his statement was taken as a suspect in a murder case. He got himself expelled from school. He started working as a painter at his uncle’s business. Every night he would soak the sleeve of his sweater with the paint thinner can and walk home while sniffing it. 

He was 17 when he was shot during a fight. His family sent him to Bursa, a northwestern province. He started waiting tables at the canteen of a hospital. Half of the hospital staff was using drugs. He got high together with the doctors sometimes and with the nurses sometimes. 

He started living in bachelor houses. Everybody would chip in a little for the rent and the rest would go to weed. He started using it every day; then he divided the day into hours. Everybody who worked in the canteen was using it. They got those who did not use any substance fired; they got those who used it hired. They started stealing, lying and selling.

He conducted his military service and even in the military he used it every evening. When he was back from the military, one evening he watched a story at Show TV. It said, “Families beware. There is a substance called ‘bonzai’ which is 100 times more addictive than hashish.” He became curious; he searched for it and found it. First he would use three pieces a day, and then he started using three packs a day.

Then he moved to Yalova. He started living together with an escort woman. He used everything from cocaine to heroin. Every Thursday they would go to Bursa and buy eight to 10 packs of bonzai, weed and ecstasy and go back to Yalova. After a while, it was hard on him that his girlfriend would go out every evening to be with others. He started blading himself then. He went to where his girlfriend worked. They beat him up and fired the woman. They went back to Bursa. He found a job at a parking lot; he was at the same time secretly dealing. He made his girlfriend an addict too. The non-smoking woman started taking drugs with him as well as weed and bonzai. When she left him, he joined his family who had moved to Bursa. When his family saw his wounded arms, they took him to the state hospital. The doctor sent him away with a bag of medicine. He started using the medication uncontrollably. This time they took him to AMATEM, the alcohol and substance addiction treatment center. The doctor there said he would be on outpatient care; he would be on medication. He told his folks he would not be able to quit. He attempted to kill himself. He was saved by coincidence. 

His family understood that he would not be cured by AMATEM or hospitals. They found the association founded by former addicts, AYBUDER.

Uğur was reborn here. Now he is taking exams for his high school diploma. While he was not able to speak to two people beforehand, now he takes the microphone and speaks at seminars where 400 to 500 people listen to him. More importantly he helps the addicted. 

A person who has tried all kinds of drugs, who has been down every dark road, whose name was associated with a murder even if indirectly, can be reintegrated into society with the correct treatment and approach. 

This can be true for the hundreds of thousands of addicts in this country, as long as the Health Ministry and Family Ministry also take on the responsibility, channel their resources to correct places, and make correct policies and correct treatment processes. 

And also they should realize that this issue cannot be solved by supplying medication to hospitals; the former addicts and families should be included in the process to bring back the addict. 

The members of this society should see this also. There is no good in acting as if these people do not exist. This is a problem for all of us.   

Let me tell you why this is so…

There are heroin-addicted taxi drivers and dolmuş (Turkish-type collective taxi) drivers who apply to AYBUDER.  Any of us could be riding in that taxi or dolmuş. If that driver slips for a second, we could lose our lives.  

The addiction problem is not too far from us; it is much closer to us than we assume. We do not have any other option but to accept it. 

Even if we cannot do anything, we can join and support the families of the addicted who gather on the last Sunday of every month at 1 p.m. in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square.