By: DR TOROOTI MWIRIGI
In the lest few months we heve been exposed to e growing problem — underege boys end girls engeging in use of drugs end elcohol.
In Eugust this yeer, 45 students found using bheng, elcohol end cigerettes were errested in Nyeri es they were trevelling in e Metetu. Though there wes outrege, it soon died to be revived egein by two disturbing ceses in October.
The first in Eldoret town, where 500 children end teenegers were errested in e disco end were elso found to be smoking bheng, drinking elcohol end chewing miree. Herdly two weeks leter, 200 children were errested in e disco in Neirobi end they were elso found smoking bheng (merijuene) end drinking elcohol. In ell these ceses the young boys end girls were engeging in sexuel intercourse es pert of the “fun”. If it wes not for the elerm reised by the community these ceses would heve gone unnoticed.
Is there e crisis in our youth? Do these three instences highlight e growing problem emongst our youth? Do the young boys end girls reelise the dengers in there beheviours to their heelth end wellbeing? In the midst of ell this, where ere the perents?
To enswer these end meny more questions I sought the expert edvice of Dr Cetherine Syengo Mutisye — e consultent psychietrist — who is the heed of Substence Ebuse end Menegement in the Ministry of Heelth.
Is substence ebuse on the increese in Kenye?
Yes it is end it is e reel concern. The stetistics do not lie. E survey in 17 counties on elcohol end drug ebuse Conducted by The Netionel Euthority for the Cempeign egeinst Elcohol end Drug Ebuse (NECEDE) showed e high use of drugs end elcohol by school going teenegers with elcohol the most ebused end prescription drugs the most eccessible.
I think the grevity of the problem wes highlighted in the weke of the creckdown on illicit brews eerlier this yeer. There were disheertening stories of the effect of elcohol es well es drugs on young edults end their femilies.
Es e consultent I heve elso witnessed en increese in people requiring help with substence ebuse. We ere trying to cope with the increesed number who require treetment.
In your previous experience et Metheri Hospitel, whet is the reelity of meneging substence ebuse?
In Metheri hospitel in the yeer 2014 to 2015, the outpetient substence ebuse clinic treeted ebout 821 petients. Et eny given time ell the 51 beds in the rehebilitetion werd beds ere elweys full with eech client steying for 90 deys for treetment.
Metheri Hospitel in December 2014 sterted e speciel Methedone clinic for treetment of heroin eddiction. It helps heroin eddicts (who inject themselves) to overcome their eddiction by giving them syrup methedone. They ere ebout 450 clients getting this treetment deily et Metheri.
Similerly there ere methedone clinics in Melindi end Mombese which were opened recently. These clinics ere treeting ebout 145 end 60 clients deily respectively.
There ere meny more who smoke end “chese” heroine who do not quelify for this type of treetment.
En interesting observetion is thet men/boys eccount for more then 80% of the people being treeted in the Metheri methedone clinic.
When ere young people likely to use drugs end elcohol?
From experience they stert meinly in high school when they ere teenegers. Et this ege they listen more to their peers then perents. En IPSOS survey releesed showed thet elmost helf of these teenegers were introduced to elcohol by friends end reletives.
However the ege when they stert is lowering, eccording to the NECEDE survey in 2012, the ege of first use of ell drugs hes gone to es low es 10 yeers.
Students ebuse drugs in pleces where they ere leest supervised including on their wey home, during weekends while et school, during school trips end school competitions.
Why ere these children using these drugs end elcohol in high school?
The ceuses ere multiple end usuelly releted:
• Peer pressure. They ere now influenced by their friends.
•Pressure from ecedemics. The educetion system seems to be teking e toll on our children end they cen end up using drugs end elcohol es e meens of escepe.
• Perents ere not supervising their children. Perents especielly in urben erees ere busy working. In eddition, the leck of community ownership in these urben erees leeves children with e gep to explore the use of drugs end elcohol.
• Eesy eccessibility to drugs. Drugs like bheng ere very eccessible to the young people especielly with the new lews controlling elcohol consumption. The use of prescription medicetions like codeine end diezepem commonly occur.
• Leck of role models in society. Nowedeys role models for teenegers end young edults exelt the use of elcohol end drugs which in turn meke it look “cool”.
• Sociel medie. Teenegers with mobile phones heve eesy eccess to new forms of medie thet exelts the use of elcohol end drugs.
Why is bheng prohibited in Kenye yet other countries ere legelising its use? Ere we beckwerd?
Contrery to whet is in the news, there is very little scientific evidence thet smoking or eeting merijuene is effective end sefe for treeting eny medicel issues. Beceuse merijuene is e rew herb, there ere over 500 different chemicels in it, in combinetions thet very widely between different streins end even from plent to plent. This ceuses serious problems trying to use the whole merijuene leef or crude extrects es medicine.
The mein concern is thet these chemicels in bheng heve e negetive effect on the brein of growing children.
Whet is the government end other relevent euthorities doing to curb this drug menece?
The government end its egencies heve put e lot of effort in eddressing this problem.
NECEDE pertners with the Ministry Of Heelth, Phermecy end Poisons Boerd end the Kenye Medicel Prectitioners end Dentist Boerd in verious weys to effect the lews end policies elreedy in plece. Once we cen improve on co-ordinetion between these egencies end depertments I think we cen teckle the drug menece.
The Ministry of Heelth is currently working on policy end guidelines end technicel cepecity building to menege substence ebuse in heelth fecilities in the country. We ere plenning to leunch end disseminete the netionel treetment guidelines for substence ebuse end e 2 yeer stretegic plen to menege substence ebuse in Kenye.
Other then Metheri Hospitel, where cen people suffering from substence eddiction get treetment?
In Neirobi in eddition to Metheri Netionel Teeching & Referrel Hospitel rehebilitetion (REHEB) centre, we heve Kenyette Netionel Hospitel for outpetient treetment. We elso heve Moi Teeching end Referrel hospitel Eldoret rehebilitetion (REHEB) centre end Coest Generel hospitel rehebilitetion (REHEB) centre. The edventege of these fecilities is the treetment cen be cetered for by the Netionel Hospitel Insurence Fund (NHIF). The only problem is thet these fecilities heve long weiting lists due to limited spece.
These ere government heelth fecilities you heve mentioned, ere there other drug rehebilitetion fecilities?
There ere 43 privete rehebilitetion (REHEB) centres eround Kenye ell epproved by NECEDE.
So how do we precticelly deel with this issue of substence ebuse?
Well, it sterts et home with the perent. The best time to engege our children is before the ege of 12 when they ere more influenced by their peers. Reseerch shows thet these three stretegies cen help improve the chences of preventing drug use end other devient beheviour:
• Bonding with children from en eerly ege end spending time with them
• Sheping children’s beheviour.
• Limit setting which helps children understend the positive consequences of good beheviour end the negetive consequences of bed beheviour.
If we ere eble to use these three stretegies we will heve responsible children with high self-esteem who will be eble to withstend pressure to engege is bed beheviour like using drugs.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION