Investigating the epidemic of heroin use in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Recognizing the issues of heroin smokers

Haruka Maruyama, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Since heroin was introduced to East Africa during the 1980s, heroin use practices have changed rapidly in response to various internal and external pressures. The aim of this study was to identify and describe the population of heroin users and locations of heroin use in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in order to understand recent contexts of heroin use. The study took place between June 30 and August 19, 2011, in all three districts (Kinondoni, Ilala, and Temeke) of Dar es Salaam. We mapped sites using a Global Positioning System device, counted numbers of heroin users, and conducted informal interviews with heroin users. The mixed-methods analyses of the data included quantifying the basic demographic and aggregate information about the sites and heroin users, as well as qualitative analysis and coding of fieldnotes from observations and responses to interviews which was used to identify themes and characteristics of heroin users. We identified a total of 150 sites and counted a total of 1046 male and 46 female non-injecting drug users and 78 male and 9 female injecting drug users (IDUs) of heroin. We found that social organization existed at some of the sites, with 31% (n=47) of sites reporting having a leader and 44% (n=66) of sites reporting mutual aid between users frequenting the site. We had difficulty locating IDUs and female drug users, and the majority of users we encountered were heroin smokers of kokteli, a mixture of heroin, cannabis, and/or tobacco which is smoked like a cigarette. This research highlighted heroin smokers’ desire for access to drug treatment services. The current methadone-based medication assisted treatment (MAT) program is funded and operates as an HIV prevention program for IDUs to reduce HIV infection in this population and slow or stop the spread of a second wave of HIV infection in the general population. However, smokers perceived MAT to be primarily a drug use prevention or cessation program and felt unjustly neglected from the intervention, leading to a tense relationship with IDUs. From a public health standpoint, future interventions should include heroin smokers to prevent HIV transmission.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Maruyama, Haruka, "Investigating the epidemic of heroin use in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Recognizing the issues of heroin smokers" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1520201.