18 Apr 2013 07:00
The number of drug addicts in France is difficult to assess. The first problem to look at is defining the addiction, and which products are most common (cocaïne, weed, crack, ecstasy...). The number is believed to be between 150 000 and 300 000. In Paris, a city project named « shoot rooms » is set to open in October where associations helping drug addicts will be able to help and assist roughly 200 drug addicts. But before this opening, in December 2012, I went to meet drug addicts to better understand their day to day life. Lot of them refused to answer questions and being photographed. Only one has accepted to be followed during the day to better understand his life. I met him at CAARUD office, an association helping drug addicts in the La Chapelle area, north of Paris. The area between the La Chapelle subway and the La Chapelle gate, is one of the most important places for drugs use in Paris. Under highways, drug users smoke cocaïne and crack every day, searching for money to pay for their drug use. Philippe is one of them. He is 58 years old and drug addict for more than 20 years.
He would like to quit, but is unable to do it. For Philippe, everyday is the same thing: smoking cocaïne and searching for money to pay for it. Over the months we spent together I better understood what being a drug addict meant. At the beginning of each month, he receives money from his Togolese family. With that money, he pays for a room in a hotel where he stays during one week. His every day is the same. He wakes up, doesn’t eat breakfast. Goes to La Boutique; the center for an association helping drug addicts. He meets other drug addicts at the center and speaks with a social assistant. The association gives Philippe some new crack pipes so that disease contamination can be avoided. He then goes to meet the dealer, buying cocaïne and going back to the hotel to smoke. He sleeps a little bit, eats a burger, and later going back to smoke more.
But after one week Philippe doesn't have enough money to pay the hotel so he has to leave the room. At this time he decides to keep small amount of money he has to buy cocaïne, and everyday he goes to Sleep-in, a drug addicts’ helping association which offers addicts a bed to sleep in. Even if he doesn't like this place because of the violence between drug addicts, he has no choice because he has to sleep there. In order to smoke his cocaine he has to go under highways, or in some squats. After few days he doesn't even have enough money to buy cocaïne. So he sells his mobile phone to the dealer and tries to buy more cocaine.
Philippe is tired of this kind of life. He would like to go in rehabilitation. He has already done so once but he failed at the end and came back in Paris where his demon took him back.
This reportage wasn't easy to do because following a drug addict is quite complicated. Rendez-vous were complicated and I had to search for him during few hours. But Philippe, like lot of drug addicts in Paris, stays in the La Chapelle Area, so I always found him. But one day I didn't. So I went back the day after and many days after that. Finally, he called to tell me that he has been arrested and is now in jail. He doesn't like it but he knows that it's also a kind of rehab, and he hopes not to fail again when he is released.