'Addicted after taking it once': How meth is devastating Sudanese youth

A number of Sudanese activists have published videos raising awareness about the spread of methamphetamine under the hashtag #saveyourson.
A number of Sudanese activists have published videos raising awareness about the spread of methamphetamine under the hashtag #saveyourson. © Observers

Many Sudanese activists are becoming concerned about the spread of the highly addictive synthetic drug methamphetamine, nicknamed “ice” or “Satan”. In light of the growing issue, some have started campaigns to raise awareness and opened rehabilitation centres. They say the government is failing to do enough. 


Many Sudanese activists have been posting videos under the hashtag #الحق_ولدك, which means "save your son", to raise awareness about the dangers of methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine is a synthetic drug that has devastating long-term effects. It comes in a crystal-like form, which is how it gets the "ice" nickname. Many people smoke it in a pipe. 

A young TikTok user made this video meant to raise awareness about the effects the drug can have. It features a young person addicted to meth who hits his father and takes his money in order to go and buy his next fix. 

@yousif_alrdesiy احفظو بيوتكم وراقبو اولادكم #الايس #السودان #مشاهير_السودان #fypシ ♬ الصوت الأصلي - يوسف الرديسي - yousif ALRedasy
“One mouthful can destroy your life and all your dreams. Ice is Satan,” says this TikTok user.

'We work with families to try to get over their feelings of shame and social stigma'

Lubna Ali founded an NGO called Bitmakaly back in 2013. Since then, the NGO has opened a rehab centre in Khartoum and run campaigns to raise awareness about drug addiction among young people in the Sudanese capital. 

Up until 2019, cannabis was the most widely consumed drug in Sudan. There were also drugs like Tramadol, an opioid, and Captagon. Methamphetamine started to appear after the revolution, likely because of the climate of political instability. 

It is a very dangerous drug with terrible side effects. It can cause someone to have a stroke, go into cardiac arrest or have major issues with their kidneys. It can also lead to someone becoming suicidal. And it’s extremely concerning because you can become addicted after taking it just once. 

Unfortunately, more and more young people are using this drug and becoming addicted. Most of the consumers are between the ages of 13 and 27 years old.    

It is widespread across the country. In Khartoum, no neighborhood has been spared. People under the influence of the drug sometimes go on to commit theft or sexual assault. It also causes auditory and visual hallucinations, delusional episodes, etc.

The NGO Bitmakaly worked to raise awareness during this event on January 18 held at a university in Khartoum.

Young people under the influence of this drug might spend entire nights awake, sometimes for several days in a row. The person becomes irritated, nervous and something tiny could easily escalate into a fight. 

At the rehab centre, we work with families to try to get over their feelings of shame and social stigma because you can actually treat methamphetamine addiction. 

“Get help for your child,” we say. “There is no difference between a psychiatrist and a regular doctor.”

Abdel Fattah al Burhan is the military leader serving as president of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council. He has been in power since leading the coup that deposed the civilian government on October 25, 2021. 

On January 3, 2023, he announced that the government was launching a campaign against drugs. Since then, authorities have shut down a factory where Captagon was being produced. But activists say the government isn’t doing enough and that meth dealers continue to work with impunity. 

To further muddy the waters, al Burhan has also claimed that the young people who regularly protest against his military government and the coup are actually under the influence of drugs.   

Lubna Ali says there is no substance to al Burhan’s allegations: 

There is no proof of that. We haven’t had any patients who were participating in the protests. On the contrary, most of the people who we care for are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder because their friends or family members had been killed or injured during protests. These people then turned to meth to forget their pain. 

We’ve cared for 223 young people at our rehab centre in Khartoum over the past few months. We did have eight people who left the centre of their own accord after a few days. However, we took in a further 113 in for in-patient care. And there are a hundred more people whom we’ve been treating as out-patients. 

However, there is a really high demand. Most rehab centres don’t have capacity for any more patients. I hope that the next government will put in place policies for caring for these young people. 

Activists are calling for social security to cover rehab treatment. Their only hope for achieving this is if a civilian government is formed in the coming months. 

Military leaders, including al Burhan and paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, signed a preliminary agreement with civilian leaders on December 5, 2022. The civilian groups included the political party the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), which was ousted during the coup.

The agreement calls for the army to hand over power to enable political groups to form a civilian government.