Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jul 2012
Source: Point, The (Gambia)
Copyright: 2012 The Point Newspaper
Author: Sainey M.K. Marenah


The increasing number of drug-related cases in the country is 
worrisome, and a cause for concern for religious scholars, state and 
mental health officials, who all called for a concerted effort to 
curb the menace.

At a forum convened by the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) at 
the weekend on the drug situation in The Gambia, religious scholars 
among others dilated on the devastating effects of drug abuse.

The forum, which brought together panelist in the persons of Dr Omar 
Jah, deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of the Gambia, Reverend 
Gabriel Allen, secretary of the Inter Church/Inter Faith 
sub-committee of the Gambia Christian Council, SH Bakun, Director of 
Public Prosecutions (DPP) among others, was held at the Kainifing 
Municipal Council hall in Kanifing.

Dr Jah dilated on the types of drugs and their effects on human 
health, stressing that Islam prohibits drug abuse in its strongest term.

According him, much of the drugs used are detrimental to our health 
including mental health.

"Drug abuse including alcohol may lead to health problems, social 
problems, injuries, unprotected sex, violence and accident and even 
death or suicide. Drug abuse, misuse, and use lead to health problems."

Noting that drug abusers become idle and a burden to the society, Dr 
Jah said the growing menace of drug cases is a cause for concern, and 
the society should help in that aspect.

However, he stated that government should also provide an alternative 
to youths who are drug abusers or addicts to engage themselves in 
productive ventures.

Dawda Samba of the WHO Mental Health and Advocacy Program described 
illicit drugs as a chemical substance that are taken without medical 
prescription, and have the ability to harm the person's physical, 
mental and social health.

According to him, a study revealed that about 27,000 people in The 
Gambia have mental disorder.

"It is estimated that half of this number (14,000) have mental 
illness caused by cannabis. Statistics since 2009 have shown a steady 
increase caused by cannabis," he revealed.

Also speaking at the forum was Reverend Allen, who said Christianity 
forbids the use of drugs, noting that the consequences of drug abuse 
cannot be overemphasized.

"The drug abuse situation in The Gambia is indeed a very complex one, 
and the churches have a role to play in that regard," he said, while 
calling for tighter legislation against drugs barons and producers.

DPP Bakum said the government has enacted stiff laws for both drug 
traffickers, abusers and producers all geared towards discouraging 
the scourge of drugs.

The public relations officer of the NDEA, ASP Abdoulie Ceesay, also 
gave a presentation on the drug situation in The Gambia, giving 
figures on the increase in drug cases.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom