Children and Drug Abuse

Many fingers have been pointed at the youth themselves while at the same time ignoring the very people who abet the youth’s drug habits

By Ivy Maloy

Drugs and substance abuse in Kenya is a problem among young people in learning institutions it is a growing social and public health problem. This presents a challenge as drug and substance abuse may begin at an earlier age. This scenario has resulted in limited evidence on drugs and substance abuse among primary school pupils. Learning institutions have become a hub for drug sale and consumption, with both licit and illicit dealers targeting pupils for recruitment into the business. The substances are sneaked into schools without detection by school authorities since they are mixed with juice and other confectionaries.

The abuse of drugs in Kenya is escalating rapidly from alcohol and cigarettes to the more dangerous drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin among other drugs. In addition, there are marked changes in the demographic profile of users: women and youth are increasingly initiating using drugs. According to a study by NACADA, 8 percent of 10-14 year-olds have used some alcohol at least once in their life and about 13 percent of them have ever used other drugs or substances such as cigarettes.

In Kenya, individuals are introduced to drugs at a tender age. As the habit gains root in them, a big dent occurs in their lives. This includes collapsed families and parents, who ignore their responsibility as role models for their children, contributing to drug abuse. Other socio-economic factors are also critical. It is also imperative to note that the country has experienced an information technology explosion in recent years, a development that has had both positive and negative effect on youth.

On the other hand, the medium for promoting legal drugs, such as alcohol, have been so explicit that young people are made vulnerable. A weak justice system, corruption and collusion by law enforcement officers have undermined the war against drug abuse. The current trend of substance abuse among youth and especially school age children is troubling. Many fingers have been pointed at the youth themselves while at the same time ignoring the very people who abet the youth’s drug habits. These are generally people of the middle aged and adults, including parents, in whose care the young generation lives. Drug peddlers and barons are increasingly targeting the youth, most of them below the age of 18 years.

To reduce alcohol abuse in the country, the government enacted the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act 2010 which aims to regulate production, sale and consumption of alcohol. The Alcoholic Drinks Control Act of 2010 came into operation on 22nd November 2010 and repealed the Chang’aa Prohibition Act and the Liquor Licensing Act. The objective of the Act was to provide a law for the control of production, manufacture, sale, labeling, promotion, sponsorship and consumption of alcoholic drinks to protect the health of individuals, protect the consumers of alcoholic drinks from misleading and deceptive inducements, protect the health of persons under the age of 18 years, inform and educate the public on health effects of alcohol abuse, adopt and implement measures to eliminate illicit trade in alcohol, such as smuggling, promote and provide for treatment and rehabilitation programs, and promote research and dissemination of relevant information.

The government has also enacted the Tobacco Control Act of 2007 which aims to control the devastating health, social, and economic effects of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke on individuals and families. The Ministry of Education has infused alcohol and drug abuse in the school curriculum and trained and designated guidance and counselling teachers in schools. Other interventions include life skills and awareness campaigns.

Children need to be taught from a young age the effect of drugs on themselves and how it would ruin their future. Parents, guardians and their teachers should introduce programs to guide and counsel them on the importance of staying sober and drug free.

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