Drug abuse is increasing in the East African region both in terms of supplies and users. East African countries are now known to be among the largest producers and users of marijuana according to the UNODC report.
Cannabis use poses one of the biggest challenges, second to alcohol. Why is substance abuse increasing at such a pace?
The answers to this question are varied and may include those related to supply, where many people are abandoning traditional
agricultural products like maize (corn) and are resorting to planting cannabis, believing that, it will give them quick money. In addition the consumption of marijuana has also gone up because some people believe it eases their problems.
Many young people in the big slums of cities like Kampala, Nairobi, Mombasa and Dar salaam have been reported to be using cannabis as well as in the villages. The effects arising out of cannabis use have increased and mental health hospitals are egistering an increasing in numbers of drug related problems.
There are also other drugs on the market which have come in; these were not originally a big problem but due to increased drug trafficking and weak law enforcement in the region the use of heroin and cocaine has been increasing in the region. Worse
still is the new behavior of injecting drug users seen in cities like Nairobi, Mombasa and Zanzibar Islands. This was originally to be perceived as a problem of Europe, America and Asia, but it seems that young people are surrounded by this problem of injecting drugs; not only children from rich families face the vice, but also those from poor families and the street children are adopting
Injecting drug users are at multiple problems and at risk of HIV/AIDS transmission and big numbers have been recorded among this population. The urgency to address this is issue is far greater today than in the past, because we have little experience in
helping such a population.
Street and slum youth also use inhalants and the effects of these solvents are very devastating and children have not been reached to address the problem. Because in East Africa data on drug abuse has not been forthcoming the problem of drug abuse appears to be under-estimated and countries appear not to be putting sufficient resources to study the problem.
East African states must appreciate the need for control of drug abuse, not only in terms of border controls, but also drugs that are indigenous to the countries especially cannabis, tobacco and alcohol to a large extent, because all these serve as portal drugs to the use of other hard drugs. Drug abuse can destabilize government because most of the revenue is unrecorded and can finance covert behavior. Treatment for drug abuse is very expensive and East African states do not have enough resources to provide treatment.
Youth must be helped to understand the devastating effect of drugs and that drugs do not provide a solution to their problems. Avoiding drugs provides a better solution than treatment! There is a need by East African states to increase efforts in combating drugs on both the supply factors including those cultivating cannabis and making alcohol as well as finding out reasons why young people are resorting to uses of drugs. Urgently there is need to increase opportunities for young people’s recreation facilities and centers where young people can seek help.
Please find the full World Drug Report as eBook.