Recreational drug use is a drug taken on an occasional basis for enjoyment. In Kenya it is common among men, women, and youth from both rural and urban environments. The drugs reported to have been used are cigarettes, tobacco, shisha, packaged alcohol, chang’aa, hashish, bhang, cocaine, heroin, khat, inhalants, prescription drugs (sedatives or sleeping pills, morphine, codeine, pethidine), and synthetic drugs e.g amphetamine, hallucinogens, mandrax.
In the last few years, recreational drug use has led to a series of abuse which can be traced to several causes which include regularized homophobia and social stigma, poor parenting and poverty, and peer pressure. Examples of the major effects are violence, utilization of health-care services, greater risk of contracting HIV, chemical dependence, and social stigma. Local communities and the national government have made attempts to address these issues.
In pre-colonial times, for example, the Kenyan society allowed drug use such as alcohol consumption only during cultural activities. The right to use drugs including alcohol was entirely enjoyed by the male elders within Kenyan communities. Youth and women, nonetheless, were prohibited from such functions. Before colonialism, Kenyans consumed alcoholic drinks such as chang’aa and toivo. They also chewed, smoked, or inhaled tobacco leaves, khat leaves, and marijuana leaves.
Kenya, because of numerous unfortunate incidents, is classified as a weak but functioning state. This then implies that the state lacks a monopoly on force. This creates room for non-formal citizens who are able to conduct their illegal affairs with little fear of state intervention. Other conditions such as severe governmental corruption, weakened institutions, and stable financial and transportation services make Kenya an optimum destination and conveyance point for drug traffickers. According to , a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated that there were significant quantities of heroin being found in areas along the east coast of Africa with most of the heroin being said originated from Afghanistan.
The sea is commonly known to be the travel path chosen by traffickers, and so areas that are most affected by drug trafficking are found on the coastal region. Examples of such areas in the country include Lamu, Malindi, and Mombasa. Recently, the city of Mombasa, the largest port in East Africa, has become the capital of a new drug trafficking route. It is believed that heroin from Asia and cocaine from Latin America now transit through Kenya, before heading to Europe.. There are also times when drug trafficking happens through airports.
According to the CID , the government formed the AN (which is an Anti Narcotics unit) a section of the Criminal Investigations Department charged with the responsibility of enforcing the Narcotics and psychotropic substances Control Act No. 4 of 1994[L.O.K]. The Unit was established in 1983 to specifically deal with illicit drug trafficking. The World Health Organization states that Substance (Drug) Abuse is increasing in Kenya and especially among the youth. Current statistics indicate that more than half of drug users are aged 10-19 years.
The statistics shown cannot completely capture the number of people abusing drugs and the impact it has had on the country simply because not everyone can confess to this. The effects of abusing the drugs are numerous. According to France24 ,this illegal market, estimated in Kenya at more than €100 million a year, is constantly growing and has serious consequences for the health of Kenyans. Youngsters between the age of 16-30 years are mostly affected by drugs. In Nairobi and Mombasa almost 70% of the youth are estimated to abuse drugs.
Young people who continuously abuse substances often experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties, health-related problems (not excluding mental health), poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Additionally, there are consequences for family members, the community, and the entire society.
Injuries due to accidents (such as car accidents), physical disabilities and diseases, and the effects of possible overdoses are among the health-related consequences of teenage substance abuse. A huge numbers of youth involved with alcohol and other drugs face an increased risk of death through suicide, homicide, accident, and illness. Mental health problems such as depression, developmental lags, apathy, withdrawal, and other psychosocial dysfunctions.
In addition to personal adversities, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs by youth may result in family crises and jeopardize many aspects of family life, sometimes resulting in family dysfunction. Both siblings and parents are profoundly affected by alcohol- and drug-involved youth . Substance abuse can drain a family’s financial and emotional resources. They are at a greater risk of contracting HIV since it is known that they share needles and inject themselves with the drugs hence the transit of the virus.
The local community plays a role in regulating the consumption of alcohol and other drugs. In areas like Baringo North, if, for example, a youth is caught drinking alcohol or using drugs, the word of a village elder can be enough for the youth to stop his or her behavior. The family is also capable of guiding relatives or immediate family members away from alcohol and other drugs.
The citizens are also educated on the negative effects that the drugs have on themselves and the community at large. Harsh penalties have also been put in place by the government in order to regulate this issue. Recently, a drug smuggler from the USA,Baktash Akasha was jailed for illegal smuggling of drugs into Kenya. HE was jailed for 25 years overseas.
The government plays a huge role in curbing the use of illicit drugs in the country. They can educate the youth on drug awareness and its harmful effects. They can create more jobs especially for the youth so that they can have some work to do instead of being jobless drug addicts. More stringent measures can be put in place for people who are found dealing with the drugs to avoid more people being involved in this. Also they can try establishing entry points of drugs in the country and stop the trade process.
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