Let's join hands to save our young people from drugs and alcohol

Government officials arrested a reveller found drinking before official hours in a sting operation by a multi-agency team led by NACADA in Kayole on November 09, 2023. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Drug abuse and alcoholism are on the rise among the youth, with an average of about 200,000 addicted to death.

National Authority for the Campaigns Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) statistics indicate that most youths are addicted to tobacco, alcohol and khat, exposing themselves to serious health risks.

The increase in drug abuse is notable among youths aged between 15 and 24 years, especially in Central and Rift Valley regions and most of them now require rehabilitation.

According to a NACADA report, one in every eight Kenyans aged 15 – 65 years (3,199,119) are alcoholic with the Western region having the highest prevalence at 23.8 per cent followed by Coast at 3.9 per cent and Central at 12.8 per cent.

“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” the report reads.

This calls for concerted efforts by government agencies and the community to save the youth from addiction. Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has been on the forefront campaigning against drug abuse in Central Kenya and Rift Valley and such efforts should be emulated. The war against drugs and alcohol in the Central Kenya region is already yielding fruit.

Mr Gachagua warned government officers, police and other leaders, against working with groups that produce and promote the consumption of illicit brews and drugs across the country. There is need to build community-based rehabilitation centres to provide counselling and guidance to youths.

The Ministry of Health should work together with other government agencies to bail out the youths who are addicted to drugs.

Community health promoters should be empowered to identify youths who are addicted to drugs with a view to offering rehabilitation services.

The two houses of Parliament - the national Assembly and the Senate - should assist county governments in developing and implementing polices and laws that will guide them in the control of drug abuse and alcoholism.

As a country, we must have practical plans of action that will support rehabilitation of youths who are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

This has to be done at the community level where most youths are addicted to drugs, yet they do not receive any help. Likewise, agencies like NACADA should be allocated adequate funds and human resources to implement programmes to tame drug abuse and alcoholism.

The agencies must come up with clear strategic plans on control of drug abuse and rehabilitation programmes besides sealing the entry points for drugs.

The youths who have undergone rehabilitation, likewise, should be empowered economically to enable them to engage in income generating activities to support their livelihoods.

The problems of drug abuse and consumption of illicit brews have been linked to poverty and lack of employment among the youths.

This is why the Ministry of Youth and Sports should be proactive identifying talent and supporting youths to engage in productive projects instead of wasting their lives by abusing drugs and alcohol.

Sporting programmes ought to be implemented during holidays when most youths are at home in order to engage them in meaningful sporting activities and protect them from being lured to drug abuse and alcoholism.

To win the war against illicit brews and drug abuse, there must be concerted efforts by NACADA, police, provincial administration, political and church leaders across the country.

Mr Kaino works for the Presidential Communication Service. [email protected]