Kenya has been trying to fight drug abuse for the longest time among the youth.
To that extent, NACADA place young celebrities as directors to ensure that they can reach the youth affected. Chipukeezy took on that role, trying to curb drug abuse among the youth.
One thing the government also needs to focus on is over the counter medicines that are being abused.
After speaking to a local pharmacist, he revealed a lot to me. The first thing was that most of the people who purchase over the counter medicines to use as drugs are men.
Speaking to him, I asked what was the most commonly misused medicine. He spoke about Benylin and Betapayn that contain a certain chemical called codeine. The government banned then from being sold over the counter after realizing that it was being misused as a drug.
Codeine is an opiate drug used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is available either from doctors as a prescription-only medicine or, directly from a pharmacy combined in lower doses with aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol. It is used to treat pain that does not respond to simple painkillers.
Codeine which is easily accessible is the first step to becoming an addict to other heavier drugs. The high becomes normal that a user would then want to increase the high and that is how it becomes a gateway drug to other opiates, including morphine and even heroin.
The short-term effect is as simple as getting high and increasing stimulation. What the users might not be aware of is that it is a depressant.
Most of the people who purchase these drugs are 18-30 years old and they combine them with alcohol or soda. The long-term effects are very dangerous. It can lead to dangerous levels of depression in the brain and respiratory system.
The other effect is that it can lead to impotency. Especially in men.
Just as I was speaking to a pharmacist, a 21-year-old looking guy walks to the chemist and asks for ‘kawaida‘. The pharmacist knowns him and so he takes it from what he calls, ‘under the shelf’.
I ask him, what is the fancy when it comes to Codeine. He says it gives him a high that he enjoys because he can not afford alcohol all the time. The stimulation gets even better when he takes it with Miraa(Khat).
Codeine is the most abused drug but the youth have discovered other medicines to add on to drugs and increase the stimulation.
The pharmacist mentioned Promethazine. This is a neuroleptic medication and first-generation antihistamine of the phenothiazine family. The drug has strong sedative and weak anti-psychotic effects. It also reduces motion sickness and has anti-emetic and anticholinergic properties.
He says that the youth crash it and add the powder to weed, they role it all together and smoke it.
One thing he kept emphasizing is that the one thing the youth are looking for is a cheap and quick way to get high. It is even worse that many girls are drugged in house parties using these medicines then later sexually abused.
What also caught me by surprise was when he got a customer who actually said kawaida, the pharmacist knew what to give him with no hesitation.
In as much as this is a hazard, most pharmacists still sell to the youth all because of greed. In the fight against drug abuse among the youth, they are as much of the problem as they are the solution.