Kenya’s Modern Approach to Opioid Addiction


East Africa’s emergence as a major drug smuggling hub has led to an explosion of heroin use in the region. While Kenya’s government has largely failed to crack down on trafficking, its response to addiction has seen success. It is one of the few African countries to implement harm reduction strategies, such as needle exchange or drug replacement therapy, which remain controversial in many parts of the world.

I am from West Virginia, which has the highest opioid overdose rate in the US. The patterns I saw in Kenya were achingly familiar. People talked about the nearly instant physical addiction, the lies they told to family, the pawning and stealing, the crippling pain of withdrawal. The same stigmas exist in both places, as does the fight to redefine heroin use as a public health crisis, instead of a criminal problem.

These photographs tell the story of recovery in Kenya, that could be the story of recovery anywhere.


Photographed for Open Society Foundations.