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Drug abuse corroding society

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 26 – Like the dry rot that eats away the wooden beams of a house, drugs can corrode the whole structure of society.

For human society to function properly it must have stable families, healthy workers, trustworthy governments, an honest police, and law-abiding citizens – but most of these seem to be a pipe dream for Kenya.

The National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) board Chairman Dr Frank Njenga points out that departure from traditional norms have played a major role in the increasing cases of drug and alcohol abuse in the country.

“We are a very rapidly changing society and community. That means that the traditional systems that we have used to create cohesion within our society and community, are not as good as they were in the past,” he said.

Dr Njenga said that drug abuse corrupted every fundamental element making up the fabric of the society. He blamed the rampant rise in the rate of substance abuse, especially in children under the age of ten years, to curiosity.

“By design, the youth are experimenters. They will experiment with anything that comes in their way. If there is anything that comes to our society that is new, the youth will inevitably be the first ones to try it,” he explained, further pointing out that boredom and a lack of innovativeness have also played a major role in substance abuse.

“There are reasons to do with the fact that our youth have lost hope in our society and community, and are bored.”  

As more and more young people experiment with drugs, the question of how to recover from abuse takes on greater importance.

Allen Muriuki narrates to Capital News his experience with drugs:  “When I first stopped using drugs, I had trouble identifying my feelings.  At times, I didn’t know if I was happy or sad. My frequent displays of violent anger were often triggered by insignificant events. I just didn’t know how to control my emotions.”

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An unusual experience? Not really. It’s quite common for recovering addicts to have troubles with their emotions when they first stop using drugs.

Dr Njenga said that the common tendency is to seek relief by going back to drugs and further stressed the need for addicts to maintain good emotional health.

Muriuki, who is starting his second year of a drug-free life, says: “To really keep a handle on my emotions, while adding structure to my life, I try to follow one simple rule: Don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. I find that when I stick to this rule, I feel my best both physically and emotionally.”

Educational experts say that parents are by far the most important factor in protecting children from substance abuse and should be a source of example and information for their offspring.

A director at the Strathmore University Jim McFie pointed out to Capital News the fact that parents are the first line of defence in the war against drug abuse.

“Unfortunately, not all parents may grasp how important that role is,” he stated.

Mr McFie went ahead to single out the huge role that fathers should play in teaching their children about drug abuse.

“Fathers need to educate their children about drugs,” Mr McFie explained adding that most of them are irresponsible and that this is what has led to the huge incidence of drug abuse in the country.

Some parents may complacently reason that because their children come from a well respected family, they are simply not the type to get involved in drugs.

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But medical experts are of the opinion that drug dealers like to make friends with teenagers whose parents are influential because it more often than not translates into good business.

A Consultant at the Mombasa Hospital Dr Abdallah Kibwana cautions parents to ensure that their children’s friends are above board. He identified peer pressure as a very strong factor in shaping the thinking and behaviour of the youth.

“Kenya has experienced unprecedented levels of alcohol and drug abuse in the recent past,” Dr Kibwana said on Monday, adding that the most common drugs and substances abused include alcohol, tobacco, miraa (khat), bhang, inhalants, opiates and prescription drugs.

He reiterated the fact that while alcohol and drug abuse is a challenge faced by almost all age groups in Kenya, the youth are the hardest hit, and so need to be protected from this vice.

Abusing drugs affects the freedom and development of young people who form the world’s most valuable asset (UN 1998).

According to a study by NACADA in 2007, one in every 10 users of alcohol, bhang and heroin or cocaine has sought medical attention for a problem related to the use of the drug.

The increase in demand for treatment and rehabilitation services for chemical dependence has attracted many players in this field including individuals, non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations as well as the public and private sectors.

However, the extent to which existing chemical dependence treatment centres can meet this challenge have remained largely undocumented.

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