By Dr Raymond Odokonyero
I was overjoyed over the timely move to ban Kuber by the state minister for trade and industry.
The mental health fraternity has for a while now tried to sensitise masses of the evils of Kuber but to no avail. I feel this is a step in the right direction in the fight against addiction and all the mental, psychological and social problems associated with it.
Kuber is a central nervous system stimulant. This means it causes euphoria in the user in pretty much the same way as marijuana or cocaine would. It is very rich in nicotine, a substance which is very well known to be associated with cancer.
Amazingly, half of the back of the Kuber sachet has the bold inscription “CAUSES CANCER” and yet scores of Ugandan youth do not heed this advice. Kuber is associated with relief of tension, relaxation, enhanced mood, infectious laughter and enhanced social ability, factors which drive the individual’s continued use.
It is, however, also associated with anxiety, depression, panic, paranoia, hallucinosis, low energy and memory impairment in the short term but damage to teeth, gum inflammation, bad breath and throat cancers may occur in the long run.
Kuber is not sold in the country of origin and this is equally reflected on the sachet and yet again, Uganda gladly embraces it. So the minister’s moves to ban it even if not in itself an end but it is a worthy step in the right direction.
Kuber use in Uganda is fuelled by unemployment; it is cheaper compared to Alcohol. The most at-risk groups that use it are; low income earners, school drop outs, street children, products of family breakdowns and recently children in schools.
The political risk factors were associated with Kuber use were; the inability of Government to enforce laws on addictive substances and their importation, and little community support for law enforcement as many Ugandans would rather look that way in the presence of bad behaviour.
Kuber, just like marijuana and Alcohol form what is called the “Gate-way drugs”. This means that despite their individual addictive potentials, they are also capable of exciting the addiction centres of the user’s brain.
This excitement begins a cascade of addiction behaviour that includes craving the substance, seeking a more intoxicating substance, neglect of duty, excessive expenditure on addictive substances etc.
So what was formerly taken so lightly by the user primes him into using more hard core substances like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines etc. in effect, Kuber opens the gate for one to become a hard core addict in the long run.
The minister has drawn the first sword in the fight against this addictive substance.
The key is this; what can you do to prevent the health hazards of this drug that young people find so fascinating before it impedes their rational behaviour?
The writer is Psychiatrist/ Lecturer - Department of Psychiatry, MakCHS and vice-president EAYPTA