Kush: The artificial drug ravaging the youth of an African nation | EUROtoday

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An affordable, artificial drug is ravaging youth the youth of Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio this 12 months declared a battle on kush, calling it an epidemic and a nationwide risk.

The drug is leaving its customers severely in poor health, with many dropping out of training and turning to crime.

Trash-strewn alleys are lined with boys and younger males slumped in habit. Healthcare providers are severely restricted. One pissed off group has arrange what it calls a therapy heart, run by volunteers. But harsh measures can be utilized.

The venture within the Bombay suburb of the capital, Freetown, began previously 12 months when a gaggle of individuals tried to assist a colleague’s youthful brother off the drug referred to as kush. After persuasion and threats failed, they locked him in his room for 2 months. It labored. He has returned to college and thanked them for setting him free.

“The only time I left the room was when I went to the bathroom,” Christian Johnson, 21, recalled. He mentioned he was motivated to kick the drug by ideas of his household, the worry of changing into a dropout and the abandonment by lots of his mates.

The volunteers then expanded the trouble and took over an deserted constructing. They seize individuals at households’ request and typically chain them to stop them from escaping — an echo of a observe the West African nation’s solely psychiatric hospital beforehand used. There’s little padding towards the concrete flooring and partitions, and little to do past confronting their craving.

“We turn parents away for lack of space,” mentioned Suleiman Turay, a neighborhood soccer coach who helped launch the middle. “The people in the community cooperate and help in their own individual ways. Some bring food, some bring water, doing whatever they can to help.” A health care provider in the neighborhood visits every so often. Police mentioned they weren’t conscious of the venture or the observe of chaining individuals.

A young man smokes Kush at a hideout in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Monday, April 29, 2024
A younger man smokes Kush at a hideout in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Monday, April 29, 2024 (© 2024 Misper Apawu)

So far, the Bombay Community has handled 70 to 80 individuals, volunteers mentioned. One confirmed the chains utilized in excessive circumstances, though nobody was chained on the time. The youngest held was a 13-year-old boy despatched there by his father.

“I was very angry, and I wanted to have nothing to do with him,” mentioned the daddy, Gibrilla Bangura, a school lecturer. “I am very grateful to these men and women for their role in helping my son.”

President Julius Maada Bio has launched a job power on drug and substance abuse, promising to guide a authorities method targeted on prevention and therapy involving legislation enforcement and group engagement.

“We are witnessing the damaging penalties of kush on our nation’s very basis, our younger individuals,” Bio said in April.

People rarely know what they’re getting with kush, a derivative of cannabis mixed with synthetic drugs like fentanyl and tramadol and chemicals like formaldehyde. In some communities, civil society workers say, people have dug up graves to grind bones to cut with the drug, seeking chemicals used in embalming.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director in Sierra Leone, Daphne Moffett, said one challenge in responding to the crisis is the drug’s changing composition. “Before appropriate interventions can be developed, we need to know what materials are in Kush,” she said in an email.

The drug leaves people lethargic, desperate and ill. While the government does not publish official figures on kush-related deaths or hospital admissions, Ansu Konneh, the director of mental health at the Ministry of Social Welfare, said there had been a sharp rise in people addicted to kush turning up at Sierra Leone’s only psychiatric hospital since 2022.

Konneh heads Sierra Leone’s first public drug rehabilitation enter, which opened in Freetown in February. He said kush has affected Sierra Leone like no other drug.

“It’s making young people drop out of college, and it’s having a physical effect on their health. You can see they have swollen feet, they have multiple organ failures, they’re involved in crimes,” he said. “It’s a very serious situation. It’s creating family disintegration, problems in communities, and they’re dying every day.”

View of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sunday, April 28, 2024
View of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sunday, April 28, 2024 (© 2024 Misper Apawu)

Prince Bull-Luseni, the director of the West Africa Drug Policy Network, a group that aims to promote policy reforms, said Sierra Leone is the worst-hit country in the region. “Every community in Sierra Leone, not just in Freetown, has been hit by kush and it’s tearing them apart,” he told the AP, adding that with no treatment or rehabilitation for most users, “there’s no method to tackle it.”

The Social Linkages For Youth Development And Child Link, a nonprofit group that seeks to battle drug use, depends on former customers of the drug to assist educate younger individuals about its toll. The group had lobbied the federal government for years to allocate extra assets to combating habit.

“Overcoming the addiction wasn’t easy. It was one of the hardest steps of my life,” mentioned Ephraim Macaulay, a peer educator who got here throughout kush in school and shortly was paying lower than a greenback for a day’s provide. “It’s like you trying to get out of water and there’s water all around you.”

He motivated himself by evaluating himself to family and friends. They had been clear. He stank. Gradually, he stopped taking the drug. Now he typically seems like crying when speaking to friends, reminded of what his life might have been if he hadn’t kicked the habit.

A girl walks past a ‘No more Kush’ warning on a wall on Bombay Street in Freetown, Sierra Leone
A woman walks previous a ‘No more Kush’ warning on a wall on Bombay Street in Freetown, Sierra Leone (© 2024 Misper Apawu)

Habib Kamara, the chief director at SLYDCL, mentioned the provision of kush has grown exponentially after suppliers started to fabricate it regionally. He mentioned legislation enforcement must do extra to focus on producers on the prime of the availability chain as a substitute of chasing consumers and low-level sellers. The authorities has mentioned it desires to assist, not punish, those that use the drug.

“This country has fought two pandemics,” he mentioned, itemizing COVID and West Africa’s devastating Ebola outbreak that started a decade in the past. Kush has had an analogous impression, inflicting younger individuals to drop out of college, straining the healthcare system and tearing aside households.

“If we cannot have an approach that reduces usage, in the future we will not have people to replace us tomorrow in the workforce,” Kamara said.

Some parents are exhausted. Memunatu Kamara, 49, sells smoked fish at a market in Freetown, providing the main income for her family of six. Her husband is an imam. Their son, the oldest, has dropped out of school and stolen the few valuables they owned to buy the drug.

“A very intelligent boy has become a dropout,” she mentioned, wiping away tears. “I feel pain seeing him in this condition. I feel shame among my peers. I feel discouraged about his future. I have no idea what else to do about it.”

She has put her son on the ready record for the Bombay Community.