First Person: Reducing the harm caused by drugs in Thailand
UN News/Daniel Dickinson Watcharapol Mahaprom undergoes a blood test at the Ozone Foundation.
Watcharapol Mahaprom, who goes by the name Paan, accesses services at a clinic in Bangkok run by the UNODC-supported non-governmental organization, Ozone.
The organization promotes harm-reduction services which focus on their clients’ needs with the aim of preventing the health and social impacts of drug use.
He spoke to UN News ahead of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking which is marked annually 26 June.
“I first tried drugs at university when I was 21 years old, when I was invited to someone’s dorm to take ice, which is the slang for crystal meth. You can smoke this drug or inject it. That first experience left me feeling strange; I couldn’t eat or sleep, and I wasn’t sure what was happening to my body. I even went to hospital to get checked out, but could not tell the doctor that I had taken ice as it is illegal.
I only use ice when I have sex, and when I used it for a second time, it was a better experience. The drug could really amplify my emotions and prolong this enjoyable activity. I felt happy and wanted that feeling more and more.
I began using it a lot in 2018, perhaps twice a week. At that time, I felt a lot of despair, so I thought I needed it more, but the drug made me feel even sadder once the effects had worn off. I did tell my mother, who was supportive, and friends said I could call them anytime I felt sad.
Nowadays, I only use crystal meth once every three months, and normally it is paid for and prepared by the person with whom I’m having sex. It’s too expensive for me to buy myself.
Two or three years ago, I discovered that I had hepatitis C which you can contract by sharing needles or the paraphernalia needed to prepare crystal meth. That is when I was first referred to Ozone for support and treatment.
I felt there is a lot of judgment in the mainstream hospital system when it comes to people who are using drugs. I was asked all the time why I was not protecting myself, and I felt that I was being blamed for this by health workers.
UN News/Daniel Dickinson Hepatitis C tests are one of the services available at Ozone.
At Ozone, I feel more like an individual person. I feel like they care for me on a more personal level here and do not judge me. So, I can be free and open about my drug use and general behaviour.
Today, I am having a blood test to check for hepatitis C; I also regularly have a test for HIV, but I’m not so worried about contracting the virus as I am on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) which reduces your chance of getting HIV from sex or injecting drugs.
I don’t like these blood tests because of the needles, even though I am happy to inject myself with ice, which of course uses a needle. I think this is because I’m addicted to the sensation that I get from the drug, so I don’t mind the needle.
Hopes for the future
I’m now 29 years old and I want to be last person in my family to die; I don’t want to die before my grandparents or my mother. Otherwise, I will continue to work, day by day, to satisfy my needs. I’m not planning to give up crystal meth as I believe I can control my usage every three or four months.
I like the feeling, and I do think about taking it a lot as sometimes my life can be boring. My advice to other people who are in a similar situation to me is to love yourself first and do what makes you feel good.
Also, do not feel scared to access services of the type you can get at Ozone.”
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