The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Number of Chang'aa, Hard Drug Users Going Up - Report

Photo: Reuben Githinji
Containers of illicit brew in Embu, Kenya (file photo).

Drug abuse is taking a new shape in Kenya with people going for low cost substances. Though there is a decline of people aged between 15 to 65 years who used drugs in the last five years from 48.3 per cent in 2007 to 37.1 per cent last year, those going for chang'aa and hard drugs is increasing.

Hard drugs like heroin and cocaine, though expensive, are considered to have an instant knockout effect and lasts longer.

They can last in the body system an average of 48 hours (two days) on a "lighter" use and five to seven days on normal circumstances. The hard drugs are widely used in the Coastal region and is now getting easy entry into Nairobi.

In a survey conducted by the National Authority for Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse, those who are using chang'aa has risen from 3.8 per cent in 2007 to 4.2 per cent in 2012.

The survey was done in Nairobi, Central Eastern, Rift Valley, Western, Nyanza, Coast and North Eastern where 3,362 households were sampled.

In the report titled 'Rapid situation assessment of the status of drug and substance abuse in Kenya' which the body carried out covering the last five years, there is a reduction of people going for packed drinks.

"Although there is a reduction of using packed/legal alcohol, there is an increase in those reported to be using chang'aa more than before," the report said.

The survey showed that those using heroin has increased from 0.4 per cent in 2007 to last year's 0.7 per cent. With cocaine, its use has gone up from 0.4 per cent in 2007 to 0.6 per cent in 2012.

The study revealed that hard drugs are gaining ground in North Eastern, a region considered to be low in drug use prevalence.

"The entry of North Eastern region was surprising since it had low awareness levels of drugs in general," the report said.

Nacada now wants the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act 2010 implemented so that it can curb drug abuse in the country. The Act seeks to protect the health of individuals and restrict the drinking of alcohol to be for persons above the age of 18.

The Act also seeks to legalise the production of chang'aa by repealing Changaa Prohibition Act so that the substance can be manufactured according to the prescribed standards as a way of protecting consumers.

"The legislation seeks among other things to mitigate negative health, social and economic impact resulting from excessive consumption and adulteration of alcoholic drinks," the report says.

Generally, there was a drop in alcohol consumption countrywide in the eight regions of the country where the survey was conducted. It showed that alcohol consumption dropped from 14.2 per cent in the last five years to the current 13.6 per cent.

Cigarette consumption registered a tremendous drop from 4.2 per cent in 2007 to 1.2 per cent in 2012. Sniffed, chewed and piped tobacco also dropped from 0.9 per cent to 0.6 during the same period.

Nacada is headed by William Okedi as its chief executive officer, while the chairman is renowned consultant psychiatrist Dr Frank Njenga.

The body was established in 1996 with former Nairobi provincial commissioner Joseph Kaguthi being instrumental in its set up.

In 2001, the body was institutionalised to be under the ministry of Internal Security to initiate public education against drug abuse particularly among youth in schools.

In 2006, President Kibaki established Nacada advisory board under Njenga and in 2007, the body was transformed into an authority. In 2012 Kibaki assented to Nacada Bill under an Act of Parliament that made it a parastatal.

Since then, the body has been mandated to monitor national and international emerging trend on drug abuse production and abuse.

The body under the new constitution will now be devolved in the 47 counties to support them in implementing the 2010 Act.

Among other things, the body is mandated to licence and regulate rehabilitation facilities to ensure standardisation using the same curriculum.

The body would also be required to present bi-annual report on the country's drug abuse to both parliament and senate unlike the current one which was conducted after five years.

Njenga, who is also the president of the African Association of Psychiatrists, called on Kenyans to vote in leaders who do not condone drug abuse as they could lead the country into economic mess.

He cited some South America countries like Mexico and Ecuador which have been difficult to lead because of drug barons.

"We must always resist such leaders because they would mess the country and I am urging Kenyans to choose leaders basing on Chapter Six of the new constitution for the prosperity of our future children," he said.

Njenga, who is an expert in human behaviour, said the recent party nomination violence was as a result of drug abuse. He said people under the influence of alcohol and or any other drugs can be easily influenced to violence.

Njenga warned that the violence could be replicated during the March 4 general election if politicians do not restrain youths not to drink during the exercise.

"As an expert in human behaviour, I could easily tell that most of those who participated in the recent primaries violence were drunk due to drug abuse," he said.

Njenga said during electioneering periods like that of 2007/8, people under the influence of drugs can be easily incited to go on the rampage without giving a thought of what they are doing.

During the violence, 1,333 people lost their lives while another 650,000 were displaced as a result of disputed presidential results.

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Containers of illicit brew in Embu, Kenya (file photo).

A survey conducted by the National Authority for Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse, the number of people going for low cost drugs has risen from 3.8 percent in 2007 to 4.2 ... Read more »