AT last weekâ€™s UN Day Against Drug Abuse, the Ministry of Health revealed with regret a 10% rise in the drug abuse prevalence in the country. Alcohol and drug abuse now constitutes a major public health concern for the nation.
AT last weekâ€™s UN Day Against Drug Abuse, the Ministry of Health revealed with regret a 10% rise in the drug abuse prevalence in the country.
Alcohol and drug abuse cases account for up to 20% of the admissions at the national mental referral hospital at Butabika, of whom 60% are aged 13-21 years old, confirming fears of a rise in underage drinking and drug abuse.
Alcohol and drug abuse now constitutes a major public health concern for the nation.
From statistics at Butabika hospital and private rehabilitation centres, the most commonly abused substances in Uganda are alcohol, marijuana (or cannabis) and khat (mairungi). Furthermore, use of cocaine and heroine by injection has been reported on the increase.
Drugs pose a serious threat to the physical, psychological and emotional well being of the abuser and have a spill-over effect on families and the community.
The Police has singled out drug abuse as a major contributing factor to the rise in violent crime and fatal accidents in recent years, on top of drunk driving.
Health workers note with concern a worrying correlation between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS infection.
Drug abusers are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour that exposes them to HIV. This state of affairs calls for drastic action from all of us.
Without overlooking the need to curb the growing drug trafficking and regulating sale and consumption of alcohol, I submit that creating awareness on the issue is the key to fighting drug abuse, especially among youth in Uganda.
There is an urgent need to engage health workers, counsellors, local authorities, the media, parents and teachers in a coordinated extensive awareness campaign. Campaigns should highlight the state of drug abuse plus its causes, signs and symptoms among the youth.
Experience has shown that often parents/guardians are the last to know about their childrenâ€™s drug habit. This is due to lack of awareness (For many Ugandans above 40 years, drugs can be a perplexingly phenomenon) yet counsellors assert that early intervention is key both in prevention and treatment of addictive illness.
Furthermore, the campaign should integrate impartation of crucial life skills outside academics to youths such as problem solving and coping with lifeâ€™s difficulties.
Students should be helped to build interpersonal relationships, assertiveness and confidence. They must be taught the art of decision-making, especially to counter peer pressure and contradictory messages especially from the media.
Counsellors also strongly recommend that parents/guardians be taught to form healthy communication through which young people can share not only their hopes and ambitions but also their anxieties.
In light of this, the nation awaits the passing of the Psycho Active Substances Bill by Parliament and the National Alcohol Policy and Drug Control Master Plan by Cabinet, that will inter alia, regulate the sale, distribution and consumption of alcohol and impose stricter punishments for growing and trafficking in drugs.
A complete ban or at least a more severe restriction on alcohol advertising would also be welcome. The fight against drugs can be a success if there is coordination and cooperation between health workers, policy makers, parents, students, teachers and community leaders. Let us all join hands to make Uganda a drug-free society.
The writer is the coordinator New Day Christian Ministry
Awareness key to fighting drug abuse