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Self-drugging in Gaza to stay ‘numb and tranquil’

June 17, 2009

Israel already blocks crucial medicine as a ‘non-essential’ item to Gaza, where Palestinians facing chronic and terminal illnesses are maltreated, under-treated and put at further risk for not being allowed to seek medical care outside Gaza. Doctors are overwhelmed and overworked; dialysis is kept going through electricity cuts by generators. The day I spent filming at Shifa Hospital, Palestine’s largest, was one of the most depressing of my life.

But the psychological effects of the blockade are untold, as in this example of self-medication with potent pain relievers:

“When I see a friend who seems to be calm and cool, I usually joke with him: are you Tramalized?” said Hassan Ghaben, a Palestinian student from Gaza, adding “the phenomena become normal and I believe there are so many young men who use drugs to escape their problems.”

Tramal (or Tramadol) is a synthetic opiate used to treat severe pain in cancer patients. It’s become one of the escape drugs of choice against the nightmare of caged occupation and dire unemployment, especially among teenage boys and men. Misuse and psychological dependence ‘may induce psychological and physical dependence of the morphine-type.’

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