In a nondescript office in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, a group of men and women observed a minute’s silence one day recently. They were told to focus their thoughts on a person “whose life is dependent on drugs” -- a subject with which they could empathize.
This was a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and the people in the office were former drug users, or users striving to kick their habits. They meet regularly to support each other in their battle against addiction.
After the silence, it was introduction time. “My name’s Aleksandr and I’m a drug addict,” said one young man, thin and pale. (Aleksandr is not his real name; members’ names have been changed to preserve their privacy).
New member Aleksandr revealed that he has been “clean” for two weeks; the others applauded encouragingly.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.