By Joseline Byakatonda
The climate is changing – true. The soil throughout the country is losing its fertility – a fact. The economy is roaring, to some – yes. Unemployment rate for youth is high, per research – yes. But none of these have set a wildfire like substance abuse. Just in the neighbourhood, I witness young men come to the same spot of an unfinished building every evening. Being inquisitive as the human nature, is to find out why; I realize the subject matter for convening is marijuana smoking, the first signal for their presence being the smell of burnt leaves different from the one we are familiar with. This is how near the problem is, at our doorsteps. On 11th May 2017, in Mubende, a man cut to pieces a neighbour’s child; news which has agonised the district and the country at large. This man, as reported by the father of the victim, was calm with no neghbourhood wrangle but as ‘love is blind’ for those who fall into it than those who walk into it, he resorted to alcohol abuse after his fiancée left him. He is suspected to have been under the influence of drugs.
Substance abuse is the use of destructive and harmful substances so as to be psychoactive ranging from alcohol to illegal drugs, which lead to dependence on such substances hence being addictive. Using the World Health Organisation comprehensive definition; Substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Psychoactive substance use can lead to dependence syndrome – a cluster of behavioural, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use and that typically include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes physical withdrawal state.
Substance abuse has six subsections:
Depressants like: alcohol, valium/diazepam (used to treat nervous disorders and addicts with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These excite at the start but depress and if taken in large quantities lead to comma.
Hallucinogens cause people to hear what is not there. These include marijuana scientifically called cannabis sativa natively known as enjanga. These distort senses hence the quick hallucination of its victims, each dose is a lead way to sense-rapture (for lack of a better word).
Pain killers: These include heroin, which is injectable and highly addictive. About 30-35 tons of heroin is trafficked annually to Europe through East Africa from Afghan according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Uganda being one of the transit points means there are collaborators within who besides ensuring safety delivery of these substances, are equally mandated with recruiting consumers.
Stimulants include caffeine in coffee and tea. Cocaine from cocoa plant, which is applied by sniffing, eating, injecting into the body and smoldering. It is white in colour though the one on the Ugandan market usually has mixtures of sodium bicarbonate, sugar and other substances turning it pinkish. In case of an accident its consumers’ hearts and arteries may rapture, not exempting other organs. Not far ago in February 2012, Jeff Rice, a producer of a reality TV show The Amazing Race was found dead and his assistant Katheryne Fuller unconscious on the Serena hotel balcony reportedly due to a cocaine overdose with suspicion of smuggling. In this category too, is mairungi internationally called ‘khat’. Khat is chewed with the purpose of postponing sleep and hunger. Its access points are busy places like markets, bus terminals, and taxi parks. Those that consume it are prone to mental illness. Consumers of stimulants exhibit enthusiasm, become talkative – even when in real personality are quiet, decreases appetite and have trouble sleeping.
Tobacco-nicotine. It is currently packed in sachets branded kuber. Kuber being rich in nicotine increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. Its users change mood abruptly. Continuous research conducted by Family Life Network reveals consumption of kuber being mainly among secondary students who desire to study for long hours and taxi drivers. These take it either as a tea or beverage. In a separate research conducted by Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL) in 2011, kuber on the Ugandan market also contains cocaine, marijuana which implies multiple effects to its users. Supermarkets, shops and school canteens are its resource centers.
While it is easy to blame youth addicted to kuber, majority’s reason for doing so is to attain ‘classic’ grades that parents, school administrators, and the entire education system demand. Unfortunately as it contains a mixture of many substances, they are hooked to not just kuber but its entire components that are complex than initially thought.
You can easily stop alcohol than tobacco smoking. Smoking increases with time-from one cigarette to packets says Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi, The Principal Medical Officer in charge of Mental Health and Control of Substance Abuse in the Ministry of Health.
Inhalants include solvents like glue, thinner, petrol, and cigarette packages. Most street children use these. Whereas people can recover from the above, inhalants damage intensively. With information from Family Life Network, drug abuse is one of the strategies to advance the homosexual agenda. Substance abuse is being painted a stylish face with celebrities being at the front some openly acknowledging use. World over majority of celebrities depict their success as being aided by drug abuse which entices youth to try out because of the adventurous nature of their stage growth. Indeed, as attested by Rev. Fr. Bernard Denis Abanga, Managing Director, The Haven Home of Care and Rehabilitation in Namasuba, majority of the victims confessed being allured by reality shows in the bid to emulate and be ‘great’ as the icons they watch- only to realise not all that glitters is gold. In Uganda, though not investigated, there is almost 100% certainty of drug use by non gospel music singers with some advocating for its legalisation in songs. The controversial death of AK47, reportedly, involved drug use.
The use of substances is no longer a low class issue as the young professionals have embraced the practice. Shisha smokers in the vicinity of Kampala are elites hence unemployment may not be a very sound reason for fueling the practice as earlier attributed to in the past. Music idols are not financially lacking either.
Majority of the substance addicts are from well-to-do families and institutions but along the chain of development and formation is an absent parent. Youth with a low self-esteem because of either fractured family or passive parenting join peer groups seeking identity only to get addicted. Let us not incarcerate but rehabilitate them acknowledging the weakness of the system they grow in that has failed to form them.
On average The Haven receives twenty 20 addicts for rehabilitation in a month with two thirds being youth at secondary and university stage of study, mostly male. While mothers are the heart of the nation, the fathers are the head of the nation hence without either, Uganda is doomed. The current measures are boosting the girl child, but the male child is equally in danger. And of course once the boy child is disoriented then there will be no homes, leave alone the marriage in the first place – who wants to marry an addict or leave in an abusive home. If marriages are gone, society is disfigured and the homosexual agenda will be fulfilled.
As children grow into adulthood, it is natural for them to be a little quiet or withdrawn as they search for the real meaning of life and try to exert their unique identity. But in this era, it should not be taken for just a natural cause, as these may be signs of your son or daughter being addicted to substance use. Do you know who your child’s friend is? Watch your child’s friend and you will know your child’s habits. Some parents have gone an extra mile to even deliver and pick their children from school bashes and holiday parties to mitigate the risk of their children falling prey to peer influence without guidance.
Others have resolved to their children commuting from home to school no matter the cost to mitigate illicit boarding school behaviours that may go unnoticed in a crowd of students. Peer influence is an important aspect of human progress or regress. The type of peers a youth associates with will determine either. Guidance is key and this can only be given by caretakers and stakeholders. The older the children, the ‘older’ the guidance but contrary to traditional parenting style, the bigger the children, the more parents fold their hands only to awake to the shock of a life time. Prevention is better than cure; hence endeavour to know what your children, siblings, nieces, nephews, workmates and those under your care are up to. ‘You better treat a ten times mentally ill person than an addictive’, says Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi.
The youth are wailing in the wilderness, they have to be found and brought back to the Church.
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