Report reveals how four year olds end up getting hooked to drugs

Former National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) boss John Mututho (right) interacts with some of the street children who were rescued at Chemususu forest in Baringo on February 8, 2019. [File, Standard]

A new report by a Government agency reveals the mean age when a child is likely to try drugs or alcohol is 11.

The report released yesterday also indicates that only six out of 10 primary schoolgoing children would boldly say no if someone offered them cocaine or other hard drugs.

The report titled, ‘Status of drugs and substance abuse among primary school pupils’ in Kenya indicates the prevalence rate for alcohol and tobacco use is higher in rural areas but higher for other drugs in urban areas.

“For bhang and cocaine, the minimum reported ages for first time experimentation use were six and 10 years respectively,” reads the report.

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The report further states that over 50 per cent of lifetime users among primary school pupils had experimented with prescription drugs and sleeping pills at a tender age.

Prescribed drugs

“This was expected because most children must have used some prescribed drugs at an early age, particularly given their availability in the event of sickness,” the report says.

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Prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco had the highest prevalence for reported current use by primary school pupils at 7.1 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively.

The current use of miraa and heroin stood at 2.3 and 1.2 per cent.

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The report noted that the median age of first experimentation with drugs and substances varies across the types of drugs used.

For inhalants, the average age of experimentation is nine years while for cocaine it is 13 years.

According to the report, almost half of children cannot refuse an offer to do drugs.

For example, only 59.4 per cent of children would boldly refuse an offer to smoke a cigarette, 55.1 per cent would refuse to take alcohol or smoke bhang while 56.1 per cent would say no to cocaine.

“Although 38 per cent of the pupils indicated that they definitely would be tempted to use any drug, it is possible that a significant proportion of these children misunderstood the question,” explained Nacada.

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The survey on drug use was commissioned in June 2018 and covered 3,307 pupils from 177 primary schools from classes 5 to 8.

Data was collected across 25 counties.

Smoked cigarettes

Prescription drugs were found to have been used by 10.4 per cent of the pupils, 7.2 per cent confessed they had used alcohol and six per cent said they had smoked cigarettes.

Bhang was used by 1.2 per cent. The self-reported use of other drugs – cocaine, heroin and inhalants – was lower than one per cent.

Alcohol was the most prevalent among pupils in Murang’a (18.3 per cent), Uasin Gishu (17.5) and Bungoma (14.0).

Averagely, Nairobi had the highest percentage of pupils who have experimented with drugs at 36.1 per cent followed by Murang’a (35) and Bungoma (33.3).

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