In this Oct. 22, 2018 photo, Hamas security forces prepare to burn some 1,383 bars of hashish and 1,242,000 pills of Tramadol, that have been seized since the beginning of 2018, in Gaza City. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
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An opioid crisis has quietly spread in the Gaza Strip, trapping thousands in the hell of addiction and adding another layer of misery to the blockaded and impoverished coastal territory. The scourge can be traced to the mass import of cheap opioid-based Tramadol pain pills through smuggling tunnels under Gaza's border more than a decade ago. A more addictive form of the drug called Tramal has since taken hold.Tramadol, a synthetic opioid analgesic, is considered a controlled substance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in the same category as well-known medications like Valium and Xanax.Dr. Elyad Davidson, head of the pain relief unit at Israel's Hadassah Medical Center, said both drugs in Gaza are variants of the medication known generically as tramadex -- a type of opioid typically prescribed as a painkiller, but which also increases levels of serotonin, like antidepressants.Since opening at Gaza's only psychiatric hospital in 2017, it has treated 230 people, 90 percent of them tramadex users.
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