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Miraa nearly shattered my life, admits young man

By By ERIC WAINAINA | November 30th 2013


His health and social life deteriorated to an extent that his parents had to force him to take a shower.

On more than one occasion he slept on the roadside. He was plunged into a world of delusion and became paranoid.

Then came the final blow: His sexual drive disappeared and his girlfriend of three years walked away.

Yet all the time, Gerald Gitau denied chewing miraa.

Kenya is currently engaged in a debate whether miraa consumption is harmful to your health or not following a decision to ban its sale and consumption in the United Kingdom.

A section of parliamentarians say miraa has no adverse health effects, while others believe it does.

Newly appointed chairman of National Authority for Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) John Mututho says miraa is not harmful to the body.

Mututho, a rabid anti-alcohol crusader, has urged the National Assembly to amend the law that classifies miraa as a drug, saying that research conducted on the plant has not shown that it contains any harmful substance, contradicting Nacada, which has stated in no uncertain terms it is harmful.

Out of  control

However, Gitau from Thika begs to  disagree with Mutotho. He started chewing miraa in 2009.  He says back then it was just an activity to occupy him while watching movies at the weekends at a local video hall shortly after he finished high school.

He had no way of knowing that the “leaves” he had been introduced to by his peers would lead to a disease; an addiction that would see him spend time in a rehabilitation centre for months.

At the start Gitau says he used to spent Sh100 on miraa but as time went by, the cravings grew and the amount went up to Sh300

Everyday he would spend most of his time in ‘chewing dens’ at Majengo slums in Thika.

Gitau, then 25, had started a boda boda business that eventually later collapsed, thanks to the habit. 

“Instead of going to work, I would wake up at around noon, have lunch and return to the base,” he said.

The drug turned him into a sloth and to finance his craving, he begun selling his bicycles.

He says he had no choice but to use shortcuts to get money to ensure he got his daily dose.

He even stole from his mother.

As things spiralled out of control a relative approached a counsellor.

Ms Gladys Chania, the director at Right and Home Centre, said they conducted tests and found samples of cathine and cathinone, the dependence-producing constituents of khat leaves, in Gitau’s sytem.

Fortunately, he was willing to be helped. Months of sessions at the centre have helped Gitau who is now  slowly getting his life back on track.

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