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The authority said it will now move to an evidence-based approach with the help of science in a bid to slow down the use of drugs/FILE

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NACADA’s new strategy to fight rising drug abuse during COVID

NAIROBI, Kenya June 27-  The National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) is changing its strategy in fighting the menace as peddlers adopt new ways during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The authority said it will now move to an evidence-based approach with the help of science in a bid to slow down the use of drugs.

As the World Marked the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the authority on Saturday launched a set of new standards, that will guide its prevention strategy on alcohol and drug abuse.

The strategy, NACADA said, provides a broader way of dealing with a menace that has worsened since Kenya recorded its first coronavirus disease case in March 2020.

“Though much has been achieved, the challenge of alcohol and drug abuse is huge and a lot of work remains to be done,” NACADA board chairperson Prof Mabel Imbuga said during the launch.

She lamented that the “COVID-19 pandemic has also worsened the drug situation in the country as we have witnessed increased incidences of drug abuse particularly in homes in the presence of children. We have also observed operations of bars where many clients are allowed to drink in closed bars in total disregard of the Government guidelines. We have also noted that there is an upsurge of online sale of substances which further expose young people to the risk of drug use as there is the ease of access.”

What is NACADA doing to curb the menace?

“To address these COVID-related challenges, the authority is working with all key players including the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government and other Security and law enforcement agencies to address related offenses,” she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Interior Principal Secretary Dr. Karanja Kibicho who said the COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded the situation through increased stress levels with more people getting into drug use during the containment period while many others have progressed to substance use disorders.

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He challenged the County Government to put more effort into fighting the menace, which is part of their mandate under the new Constitution.

“As we take stock of the gains, challenges and what still needs to be done, I wish to remind you that alcohol and drug abuse affects all spheres of the society and thereby requires the involvement of all persons,” he said.

“Additionally, I implore counties to support law enforcement agencies in carrying out regular enforcement operations in their counties to enhance compliance,” she said.

The new NACADA strategy will focus on three thematic areas; the role of family, workplaces and communities in curbing the menace.

NACADA said family skills programs will “involve training parents to improve and strengthen parenting skills, training children in personal or social skills. They will also involve direct training and practice of skills together as a family. The emphasis here extends beyond parenting to how the parents and children influence each other and function together as a family. Examples of interventions include Universal Prevention Curriculum, Family-Based Prevention Interventions, and Strong Families Program.”

NACADA Chief Executive Officer Victor Okioma said the new standards marked a milestone the authority has achieved is the development of the National Standards on Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention.”

He said the Standards aim to improve the delivery of programs, interventions and policies in Kenya to produce positive outcomes for the targeted populations.
“It accentuates our commitment to Evidence-Based Interventions (EBIs) combating alcohol and drug abuse challenges in Kenya,” he said.

How dire is the situation in Kenya?

According to a National Survey conducted by NACADA in 2017, alcohol is the most abused substance with 12.2 percent of persons aged 15 – 65 being active users of alcohol.

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This is followed by Tobacco with a prevalence rate of 8.3 percent, Miraa at 4.1 percent and Cannabis at 1.0 percent.

Noting that drug abuse was rampant amongst the youth, NACADA in 2016 carried out a survey on the drug situation in Secondary Schools which showed that 23.4 percent of the students had ever used alcohol, 17.0 percent had ever used miraa, 16.1 percent had ever used prescription drugs, 14.4 have ever used tobacco, 7.5 percent have ever used Cannabis, 1.2 percent have ever used heroin and 1.1 percent have ever used cocaine.

Based on this realisation, NACADA in 2019 sought to establish the extent of drug abuse amongst Primary School Pupils.

The survey report revealed that 20.2 per cent of primary School pupils had used at least one drug or substance of abuse in their lifetime.

In addition, the report outlined that the average lowest age of onset to drugs and substance abuse is four (4) years and the median age of initiation is eleven (11) years.

Further, the findings pointed to the role of adults in children initiation to drug use as 29 percent of the pupils reported that they get drugs from shops or kiosks near their schools, 26 percent from bars near schools and 14 percent from school workers.

Across the globe, illicit drug trafficking and abuse remains a major challenge to the socio-economic development of States.

Global statistics indicate an upward trend in the abuse of drugs and a shift from traditional substances to amphetamine-type stimulants, new psychotropic substances and synthetic cannabinoids.

According to the World Drug Report published by the UNODC in 2020, about 269 million people, which translates to about 5.3 percent of the global population aged 15–64 years, have used drugs at least once in their lifetime.

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Out of these, 35.6 million suffer from drug use disorders thereby, increasing the disease burden.

In 2009, the number of persons who have used drugs at least once in their lifetime was 210 million.

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