Drug and alcohol use in Kenya


The miraa noun of KKhaat is a plant that is chewed to release a juice containing cathione and cathine and is not considered an illegal drug in Kenya. The bhang noun of cannabis is made of the leaves and flowers bulls of the female cannabis plant. It is usually consumed either as a beverage or a cigarette (smoked).  The bhang is used in coast and western provinces and miraa comes from the north and is consumed in eastern provinces. Heroin, cocaine and some new drugs have also appeared in the drug market.

Most of the users are adults; the majority of users come from the 25-64 age groups, and men make the biggest use of drugs and alcohol. 

In fact 79 % of households seem to prefer one type of alcohol than another, 65.1% of them use illicit alcohol, changaa and busaa which are made of methanol, buthanol, propanol and a lot of dangerous ingredients.

The brew (chang’aa, busaa) is an illegal drink which is consumed in households, especially in the rural areas.  Most of the users of this drink have died, gone blind or had serious health problems. 

Kenya is a rural country and a deeply patriarchal society where men use the money they earn to buy alcohol and drugs. Many of them engage in domestic violence

Furthermore, the parents must play an important role in their children’s socialization and inform them about the use of drugs and alcohol. However, the involvement of the parents in alcoholism has a bad influence on their children, and a negative impact on their education, and thus the children are pushed into taking alcohol and drug.

The situation in Kenya is serious because the future of the country lies in the hands of the youth.  Alcohol is responsible for crime, broken homes, bad treatment and unemployment. 

The children consume drugs and alcohol to imitate the adults.  The abuse of drugs and alcohol is a particular problem among the young people: 25 % of the students take alcohol; young people aged 12-17 years take drugs, 12% of children use alcohol and drugs in conjunction. 

According to the NACADA report the earliest age of initiation into drugs is 7 years and the average is 18 years. The children in primary school use alcohol, khatt and tobacco and those in secondary schools use tranquilizers, cannabis and kuba because of peer pressure, family crisis and lack of money. 

The children on the streets who have dropped out of school sniff glue.  The use of glue represents a street culture:  for these children it’s a way of making friends and to be accepted into a gang; and their rehabilitation is difficult because they feel free in the street and consume drugs to escape from several problems (domestic violence, bad treatment etc...). Besides, glue is cheap and easy to obtain.

According to the report, 43.3 % of students in West Kenya who are mostly male and older consume alcohol. The report showed that there is a link between the consumption of drugs, alcohol and the school environment, because school life brings stress to the students, who escape in alcohol and drug use.

Regarding the H.I V, the studies reveal that there is a link between the alcohol abuse and the risks of HIV infection. The alcohol abuse apparently increases the risks of HIV infection, as 80% of the respondents reported that they had no consensual and unprotected sexual activity.

The majority of the respondents declared that they consumed drugs and alcohol to forget their problems.

Kenya is a country that is known for the significant lack of food. As the NACADA report informs us, “50.6 % of the population lack access to inadequate food”. The problem of the drugs and alcohol abuse aggravated the economic and social situation in a poor and vulnerable country, and the crucial issue according the report is to develop and improve the public health structures in order to help the users of drugs and alcohol.

In fact 90 % of the respondents would like to enter an adequate treatment which means that there is a lot of demand but not many places and the places are difficult to access.