Pubdate: Sun, 28 Mar 2004
Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)
Copyright: 2004 Nation Newspapers
Author: Clay Muganda
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Youth)


NAIROBI -- Five broad social causes account for substance use and 
eventually substance abuse by the youth.

Chief among them is the fact that law enforcement agents do not curb 
illegal substances use with some police officers colluding with the 
peddlers or even peddling the drugs themselves.

Frustration arising from lack of school fees, and boredom resulting from 
want of gainful employment lead some youth to substance use under the 
illusion that those who use or abuse drugs will become bold, confident or 

While some youth are brought up in homes where parents use or sell 
substances and the exposure predisposes them to drug use and, in due course 
abuse, there are those who are influenced by peer pressure under the false 
impression that the substances stimulate appetite for food, increase 
strength to perform heavy tasks, give wisdom or instil courage to commit 

But there exists official ambivalence towards substance use in the country. 
Alcohol and tobacco are a cause of ill-health and at the same time sources 
of income tax. While brewing and use of indigenous alcoholic drinks is are 
illegal, the production and use of "premium" alcoholic drinks is legal. 
When it comes to miraa, the government treats it as a valued export 
commodity, competing with tea and coffee.

Paradoxically, both affluence and poverty are causes of substance abuse.

Those from rich families abuse substances because they can afford while 
some from poor families get into drugs because of idleness after dropping 
out of school.

Lack of gainful employment appears to be the main cause of substance abuse 
even in cases where the youth have completed school.

Contributing to the increasing substance abuse by the youth is the rapid 
social and economic change the country has gone through. The modern-day 
education undermines the indigenous teachings that restricted the use of 
alcohol to older people and special occasions.

Alliance High School Principal Christopher Khaemba says that poor 
communication could be a cause of indiscipline for students and adds: "In 
my school, we have a suggestion box where they drop their complaints, which 
is only accessible to the Principal. I pay attention to all the complaints.

Homelessness, hostilities or an unhealthy environment drive some youth to 
the streets where they use drugs as an escape route from the reality they 
would rather forget. In the process, they sniff glue thinking that it would 
make them feel better, cushion them from the cold, or make them have friends.

Thus, some of the causes that lead young people into substance use and 
abuse are similar to the alleged stress that drives some of them to 
experiment with substances as a means of getting inebriated, and running 
away from the realities of life.

The relatively easy availability of these substances appears to be the main 
cause of their use and abuse among the youth. All one needs is the 
inclination and the money to buy them, except in the case of illegal 
substances, when one has to be on the lookout for law enforcement officers.

Thus, there is a connection between substance use and the availability and 

By and large, the greatest initial influence that makes one experiment with 
substances are the user, the family and peer groups.

A family or a community in which adults drink, smoke bhang, or chew miraa 
can influence the youth to use substances, which they may abuse in the long 

As such, substance use or abuse by parents is a powerful influence on their 
children's behaviour as they (children) tend to emulate their parents. Even 
though one's personality can contribute to initial experimentation with 
substances use, social influences can introduce vulnerable young people to 
substances in an environment where they are freely passed around.

Whatever the initial influence or cause, when the youth persistently engage 
in substance use, they evolve a culture of abuse since they start treating 
it as part of their lifestyle, and are not conscious of the dangerous 
situations they are falling into.

But substance use predisposes the youth to disease and poor health, 
conflict with the law and poor academic performance, which translate into 
dropping out of educational institutions, into narrow opportunities in life 
and into an inability to get or keep jobs.

All in all, substance abuse by the youth culminates in an abnormal 
behaviour that makes them pariahs normally associated with criminal and 
social depravity. Only a small percentage of the youth get to learn of the 
dangers of substance use and abuse from their families, while it is a 
well-known fact that it is easier to prevent than to treat substance 
abuse-related disorders.

Outside families, preventive measures fail because the strategies developed 
in and for industrialised countries are applied locally in the absence of 
local data.

While schools are ideal sites for preventing substance use, a major 
challenge is how to apply preventive measures in relation to non-students.

To fully understand the problem, there is a need to carry out a survey 
based on households in order to capture the magnitude of substance use and 
abuse by non-students.
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MAP posted-by: Jackl