In Summary
  • As a teenage struggling with a myriad of issues, Murad used cigarettes and bhang to escape the hurt.
  • He used prescription pills, heroin, hash, alcohol, cigarettes and smoked leaves from certain plants.
  • A heroin injection gone wrong immobilised him and forced him to seek family intervention for his addiction.

Mention any drug, Murad Swaleh will tell you how it tastes.

He has tasted them all. By the time he agreed to go to rehab, his drug addiction was spinning out of control

He was dishevelled, sick and homeless.

On the streets of Mombasa in his dirty clothes, with hair looking like it hadn’t been washed or shaved in years, he was called a mad man.

Everybody laughed at him. Some beat and scolded him; it broke his heart.

He was hopeless, with a wound on his leg that hurt and would vomit blood if he missed his daily dose of drugs.


Murad dalliance with drugs started when he was a teenager. He struggled emotionally and psychologically due to family issues and used cigarettes and bhang so he wouldn't feel the hurt.

Soon, prescription pills and cough syrup became his drug of choice and later, he was smoking bhang, chewing miraa, drinking alcohol every day, and he moved on to hard drugs like heroine.

With time he was hooked on to literally anything that made him high and drunk.

Hopping from one place to another, he used heroin, hash, cough syrup, mandrax, rohypnol, mogadon, alcohol, cigarettes and smoked leaves from certain plants.

Those who knew Murad well often despaired over him. To them, he was genuinely beyond help.

They had watched him run away from rehabilitation centres more than four times.


“I have gone to rehab several times. I would stay for days then run away and go back to the same drugs. I have been in prison and remand more than nine times in different places due to hawking, touting and possession of drugs among other things," he said.

Not even pleas from his daughter would keep him away from the drugs.

"Any addict has to use the drug first thing in the morning. So before I would get money to buy that is when I would suffer from the withdrawal symptoms. If I get any cent in the morning the first thing I would go for is alcohol because my hands were shaking. After that then I take heroine and inject. The others would follow," he said.

The father of three recalled a time his daughter asked him, "Baba, mpaka lini utaendelea kutumia sindano?” (Dad, when will you stop injecting yourself with drugs?)

Impacted by their conversation and her palpable pain, he would consider seeking help only to relapse a few weeks later.

“I would at times remember her words but it was not easy to make the decision to stop. There is also a day when I was walking with her and was arrested. I had gone to buy drugs. She really cried. I never forgot the moments but I was still hooked.”


He later lost touch with his family as the addiction took a toll on him.

“People called me 'chizi’ and ‘chokora’. When you are an addict, it is hard to go home. I used to sleep in boxes, handcarts and tuktuks. At some point I was a tout and also used to sell watches. Each coin I made was used to buy drugs. I was always high," he said.

In 2013, he had had it all.

A heroin injection on his leg gone wrong made him unable to walk as the wound would not heal.

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