“My life has been absolutely drugged to the mud, I have lost friends, I have lost family members, I have nothing, I live on the streets, I freeze every night and I steal to eat and to support myself. I hate my life. I hate it. I wake up in the morning wishing I didn’t. That’s opioid, intravenous drug use for you. I feel terrible. Like am in a death trap,” these words are from a video posted on Tiktok by the documentary channel on August 31, 2022.
The speaker is an unidentified young man who is a recovering addict of illegally made Fentanyl, a drug that is taking over the streets of some States in America.
Surprisingly, the said drug might have found its way into the Coastal region of East Africa.
A few weeks ago, a 45-second video of youth with zombie-like behaviors emerged on social media, sparking a conversation and mixed reactions among internet users.
In the background, are people conversing in Kiswahili. It’s not clear whether the video was recorded in Kenya or in neighboring Tanzania.
The video captures young men looking extremely drowsy, with troubling zombie-like behaviors. They cannot move, or talk and they are standing at different angles.
They appear to have been sedated and are confused. One is seen struggling to lift a load in a white sack.
In response, the National Campaigns Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) released a statement on Tuesday, July 18 evening.
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The Acting Chief Executive Prof. John Muteti said in the statement, investigations are underway and urged Kenyans with information on substance abuse to share it with the agency.
“Accordingly, and in ensuring that we get to establish the facts around the matter urgently, NACADA embarked on coordination of all responsible multi-agency bodies to get to the bottom of this issue. The Authority is also currently engaging the leadership in county governments where the substance is alleged to be available so as to adopt a one-government approach.”
However, sources close to NACADA, and who sought anonymity, say they cannot authoritatively tell whether what the young men in the video had consumed was Fentanyl.
“I agree the video has gone viral but there is no scientific or medical research to prove that those are effects of Fentanyl,”
Experts who have dealt with patients addicted to Fentanyl say a majority of patients use it to escape reality. They could be battling mental issues and depression and in most cases they are homeless.
According to Dr. Aggrey Nyabuti, a Kenyan Pharmacist, Fentanyl is an Opioid synthetic drug used as morphine to reduce pain for patients with conditions like cancer among others.
The drug safety expert based in Kisii adds that the drug can also be abused on the streets.
“If it [Fentanyl] is not administered correctly, it can cause extreme happiness, fatigue, skin reactions, and sometimes difficulty in breathing,” he tells The Standard.
For the user to show zombie-like behavior like what we see in those videos, Dr. Nyabuti says, then Fentanyl must have been mixed with Xylazine, a horse tranquilizer used by the veterinary industry.
“That is Xylazine, also known as “tranq,” “tranq dope” or “zombie drug,” it is a horse tranquilizer used by the veterinary industry. Mixing it into fentanyl increases overdose deaths and severe medical complications — including terrible flesh wounds, causing rotting of the skin and leading to amputation. Xylazine also makes it much harder to revive people after fentanyl overdoses and the chemical adds another layer of intense addiction and cravings. It has those 'zombie-like effects,” Nyabuti says.
If used excessively, Nyabuti says the users may develop bluish and pale skin and nails, and redness of the face among others.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illegally made fentanyl.
“Both are considered synthetic opioids. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, especially after surgery and for advanced-stage cancer. However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose are linked to illegally made fentanyl, which is distributed through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency, which makes drugs cheaper, more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous,” CDC’s website reads.
Over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, CDC says.
So serious is the situation that in April this year, American President Joe Biden declared Fentanyl laced with Xylazine an emerging threat to the country.
A report by CDC –United States tabled early this year shows that Fentanyl is the leading cause of overdose deaths in the US.
Nearly 70,000 people in the US died of drug overdoses that involved fentanyl in 2021. This is almost a four-fold increase over five years.
By 2021, about two-thirds of all overdose deaths involved the potent synthetic opioid, according to the report.
In NACADA’s latest survey on drug abuse in the country, there is no data on Fentanyl use in 2022.
The most abused drugs in Kenya are alcohol, khat (miraa), tobacco, and marijuana.
“The survey established that alcohol continues to be the most widely used substance of abuse in Kenya with findings pointing towards increasing demand for cheaper and readily available alcoholic products, especially chang’aa, traditional brews, and potable spirits;”
“Results showed that the prevalence of cannabis use almost doubled over the last five years. The growing demand for cannabis especially among the youth could be attributed to the low perception of harm due to myths, misinformation, and misconceptions; “