By Nyambane Gisesa
When, a few years ago rioting students walked into pharmacy in Nairobi’s Koinange street and told the Attendants to hand over all the Viagra in stock, the incident did not make news.
However, today hundreds of young men, many of them students, donot wait for a riot to get sex enhancement drugs-they regularly buy the ‘libido booster’ in atrend that is worrying the health experts.
“They walk in droves to buy the sex enhancers,” says Lilian, a pharmacist who works at a chemist on Koinange Street. Such drugs were once considered to be largely used by the old and infirm,but things seem to have changed.
The Kenya pharmaceuticals distributors Association has told the Nairobian that the use of sex enhancement drugs has risen so fast to an “extreme popular” fast selling item in the chemists.
“Sexual enhancement drugs are outselling even popular painkillers like panadol,” Dr Kamamia wa Murichu, the chairman of the Kenya Pharmaceticals Distributors Association said.
Some medical practitioners and distributors say that the rise in use of sex enhancement drugs among the youth, some as young as 16 years old, is being driven by women who want their boyfriends to be ‘Supermen’ in bed. Peer pressure and the influence of pornographic movies also make men try to fulfill their fantasies.
But the increasing sexual assertiveness of Kenyan women was a common thread in many of our interviews.
“A number of customers who come to buy the sex enhancement drugs are young women accompanied by their boyfriends. Many are barely out of their teenage years,” a pharmacist, who requested not to be named, said.
Babu Owino, a former University of Nairobi students’ union chairman, says Kenyan men are struggling to adapt to female sexual liberation.
The new generation of women in Kenya is less influenced by religion and tradition and is willing to do what it takes to have good sex and this includes arming their boyfriends with drugs like Viagra.
“I need a man who doesn’t stop,” Irene, a student, says.
Joyce, a salonist, who complains that her sexual ardour intimidates most Kenyan men, encouraged her banker boyfriend to start using the drugs popularly known as blue pills when his sexual performance dipped.
Traders dealing in various sexual potency, penile enlargement, vagina tightening drugs and aphrodisiacs say that they are doing booming business from those seeking a quick fix solution to challenges in bed.
Interestingly, our contacts intimate, most of them do not suffer from erectile dysfunction that would require the use of such drugs, but only seek chemical assistance to impress their partners.
In a further twist, medical experts are alarmed by transformation of sex enhancement drugs into party drugs, which young people are combining with other substances to make a cocktail that some call “Sextacy.”
Worryingly is that even teenagers as young as 16 are able to access the drugs. Sex enhancement drugs are supposed to be prescribed by a physician and sellers are expected to have checks when issuing them out.
There have been warnings of that such drugs may cause nerve damage to the eye or directly trigger cardiac deaths, but their status as a cultural phenomenon seem to be growing.
According to neuro-surgeons and cardio vascular specialists anonymously interviewed for this article, heart related diseases, which used to be the preserve for the elderly, are gradually being suffered by the youth because of unhealthy lifestyles caused by use of junk food and performance enhancement drugs.
The main ingredient for sex enhancement drugs being sold locally is sildenafil citrate and tadalafil, substances that help increase the blood flow and can be effective for up to four hours.
Kipkerich Koskei, the Government Chief Pharmacist, says that the Pharmacy and Poisons Board has registered 11 sex enhancement drugs, 10 of them tablets and one a Jelly. Viagra and Cialis are said to be the fastest selling drugs among those listed.
Nonetheless, the unregistered drugs, some marketed as ‘herbal’ remedies are unregulated and it is unclear how they work. Some male sexual supplements are said to contain potentially dangerous chemicals.
Unlike men, experts say there are fewer drugs to boost female sex drive because women need more than physical arousal to get into the mood.
Although the sex enhancement drugs can help Kenya’s youth — and even some women — to have better sex, experts warn that they are neither an aphrodisiac or a sexual cure and will not in the end save a relationship of a marriage.
“There are some risks to taking such drugs that everyone, whether dysfunctional or merely dissatisfied, should consider before rushing to the pharmacy,” said a medical doctor, who did not want his name dragged into the debate.
Not everyone welcomes Kenya’s sexual drugs dependency. Nicholas Mudimba, a TV sports anchor, says that widespread use of sexual enhancers is destroying rather than strengthening Kenyan male sexuality.
“There are people of a certain age that should not use sex enhancement drugs,” he says. “It’s worrying that young people are falling into peer pressure and high expectations.”