Take decisive steps to win war against drug and alcohol abuse

One of the greatest threats to the future of our country is the trade, use and abuse of illicit alcohol as well as psychotropic substances and drugs. [iStockphoto]

For many of us, it is almost a given fact that there is someone in our circles of family and friends that has been a victim of alcohol or drug abuse.

I have lost several relatives to alcohol abuse - individuals who simply drunk themselves to death. Some have been rendered useless because they squander all their resources on alcohol. Others are destitute and unable to fend for themselves.

Their thinking capacity has been greatly impaired, and their work ethic eroded. They therefore become dependants, and at times, terrible economic drain on the family.

Sad to say but this menace is on the rise, especially among young people. With the high prevalence of unemployment, many have resorted to use and abuse of alcohol and drugs to drown their frustrations. Others from high end society, get into drugs and alcohol more as a pastime or a macho act.

Unfortunately, it is a slippery slope that one rarely gets out of even if their economic circumstances change.

Those already addicted to cheap drugs and illicit alcohol only graduate to more sophisticated types their money can afford. Thus, the battle against addiction gets lost quite early in the journey of life. It follows therefore that the current government campaign against illicit brews is a step in the right direction. It is odd that Central Kenya is regarded as one of the regions with the highest prevalence of illicit alcohol abuse.

Strange because this region is known to produce some of the most enterprising and industrious people.

One would therefore imagine that most young people from this region will readily get into gainful activities quite early. But nay!

Thanks to other highly "enterprising" individuals who have made it their business to rob others of their future. These men and women have no qualms whatsoever using the crudest methods to produce extremely lethal brews.

For their love of money, they have rendered many destitute with their illicit brews. Several have gone blind, others become impotent, and many died at their dens, yet they continue unperturbed.

But, if the illicit brew is a menace in rural villages, and among low-income urban areas, hard drugs is the bane among the rich. Children are being introduced to high end alcohol and drugs - such as wines and spirits, weed and cocaine - quite early.

By the time they get into teenage, many are already hooked. Some become peddlers, while others become victims of these destructive substances - completely addicted.

We therefore must agree with Interior CS Kithure Kindiki that the greatest threat to the future of our country - after terrorism and banditry - is the trade, use and abuse of illicit alcohol as well as psychotropic substances and drugs.

As he observed, if not dealt with decisively, it will impair our future in a big way. Unfortunately, the men and women behind these illicit trades are relentless in their evil and determined to cash in on people's vulnerability.

Previous efforts such as by John Michuki, John Mututho and President Kibaki seem to have fallen through the cracks as soon as these champions were off the scene.

While the Mututho laws were envisaged to control production, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, illicit brewers carried on as if nothing had happened.

Despite the overturning of drums of illicit alcohol brewed by river streams and sewage ponds, greedy men and women played cat and mouse with law enforcement officers, ultimately winning the war. The situation is almost back to normal, if not worse.

The implication therefore is that, like any other battles we have fought - especially terrorism and banditry - this war must be sustained over a long period of time.

The drug lords and illicit brewers are not going to vanish. They are a determined lot. Therefore, this war is not going to be won just by deploying menacing law enforcement officers after them.

Communities need to realise drugs and alcohol can lead to extinction. They must therefore work in concert with the government to expose and drive out the merchants of death. It is the only way we can ultimately win this war - and we must.