Methadone clinic or rehab centre? The tough choices for recovering drug addicts

The Lamu King Fahad Methadone Clinic in Lamu Island. Since its launch in March,2021, 381 clients have been able to undergo methadone treatment.


What you need to know:

  • In Lamu county, statistics seen by Nation.Africa indicate that the Lamu King Fahad MAT clinic has become a source of hope for hard drug addicts compared to the Hindi Rehabilitation centre.

Kenya’s Coast region continues to grapple with a high number of young men and women who are wasting away through the use of hard drugs even as the national conversation on alcohol and substance abuse gathers pace.
This is despite a number of non-governmental organisations having offered rehabilitation avenues over the years especially in Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Lamu counties where the menace is rampant.

Read: ‘Police strangled my brother for swallowing drugs'
The two common choices, which recovering drug users have to make are whether to seek services from a rehabilitation centre or a methadone treatment facility, commonly known as Medically Assisted Therapy (MAT) Clinic.
Although both are said to offer a possible way out for drug addiction depending on a patient’s willingness, there are highs and lows to each choice that must be considered.

Lamu MAT Clinic Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Abdulkadir Ahmed Jeneby. He encourages addicts to seek help at the methadone clinic for their own good.


MAT clinics are centres where drug addicts receive methadone treatment to gradually wean them from their addiction cravings, particularly from heroin. These are more of ‘outpatient’ services.
On the other hand, rehabilitation centres offer more comprehensive residential care to patients throughout the recovery period.

Read: Heroin, cocaine fuel the streets of Lamu
MAT clinics are gaining popularity among recovering drug addicts at the coast compared to rehabilitation centres.
In Lamu county, statistics seen by Nation.Africa indicate that the Lamu King Fahad MAT clinic has become a source of hope for hard drug addicts compared to the Hindi Rehabilitation centre.
From 2019 to date, the Hindi facility, which had initially been seen as the sole saviour to the high number of drug users in Lamu, registered only 161 clients.
It has the capacity to hold up to 100 patients at a go for both men and women willing to reform. It offers detox, inpatient and outpatient services.
On the other hand, Lamu MAT Clinic recorded a total of 381 clients seeking help from 2021 to date.
Mohamed Khalifa, a community leader in Lamu Old Town, notes that the high cost for services at the rehab centre puts off many would-be patients.

Read: Tales of courage: My treacherous journey with drugs and conquering addiction
One seeking treatment at the Hindi rehabilitation centre is required to pay not less than Sh90,000 for three months.
The money caters for food, clothing, guidance and counselling, medication and family therapy sessions.
It also offers training on special skills, which reformed addicts can use to better their lives once discharged. The facility has an innovation lab to cater for the same.

The Lamu rehabilitation centre located at Hindi Showground in Lamu West. Since 2019 when it was officially opened, only 161 clients have undergone treatment and rehabilitation at the facility.


“Methadone treatment services there are absolutely free. Yes, we thought the Hindi Rehab Centre was Godsent to Lamu, an area where bhang, cocaine, and heroin are turning our youth into zombies but it’s definitely unaffordable and inaccessible to many,” said Mr Khalifa.
Lamu MAT Clinic Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Abdulkadir Ahmed Jeneby, says another challenge about rehabilitation centres is that they are sober houses where addicts are contained and controlled.
According to Mr Jeneby, many users end up struggling to cope with the rehab lifestyle which seems to be lonely and strict.
For methadone treatment, addicts are free to visit the clinic and take daily doses after which they proceed with their normal daily routines.
Mr Jeneby reiterated that some clients at the MAT Clinic are individuals who had earlier undergone treatment but who relapsed shortly after completing their therapy.
At methadone clinic, patients are given ample time to reform as there is room for repeat patients.
“For us, relapsing isn’t a problem. It’s a step towards recovery. That’s why once we see a person resorting back to heroin use after taking methadone, we give them other chances where we counsel them and allow them to proceed with treatment.

This can’t happen at the rehab where one needs to be sober. No going back,” said Mr Jeneby.
MAT Clinics use methadone as a medical substitute for opioids to wean addicts off hard drugs. The pace gives their brains a chance to slowly adjust to the absence of hard drugs.

Muslim Education Welfare Association (MEWA) paralegal officer, Mwarabu Msuo. She says methadone treatment is more effective for drug addicts as it is free for everyone.


Methadone helps alleviate opioid cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms with minimal risk of tolerance.
Kenya Red Cross Society Coordinator, Lamu Branch Abdulhakim Abdul, who is in charge of the Hindi Rehabilitation Centre, said despite having a low number of patients turning up for services, the facility still remains vital for those suffering from drugs and substance abuse.
Mr Abdul admits that in the years between 2020 and 2023 less than 10 patients were admitted at the facility each year.
For instance, in 2022, only three patients were admitted at the facility despite having a capacity to hold between 50 and 100 patients.
In 2023, only six patients were admitted to the centre.
Mr Abdul defended the high cost of services arguing that it worth the money.

“People have been complaining about the high cost of rehab services. But we’re in discussion with the county leadership to see how they can help the families with their people struggling with addiction. Currently, we’ve 14 clients undergoing rehabilitation at Hindi Rehab,” said Mr Abdul.

The Lamu King Fahad Methadone Clinic Clinical Officer in charge Aziza Shee Mbarak. She says clients have flocked to the facility each day.


He added that the life skills training offered at rehabilitation centres are key to assisting recovered addicts integrate well with the society once discharged.
“We have so many success stories. In fact, the current cook employed at the facility is a former drug addict who recovered after going through rehab services. We also have teachers, police officers, prison wardens and even some military officers who got help at Hindi Rehab and were able to beat addiction,” he explained.
The Sh98 million rehabilitation centre is situated at the Hindi Showground in Lamu West. It was established in April 2019 under sponsorship of the Kenya Red Cross Society.
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