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Drug Abuse in Kenya – Causes and Effects of Drug Abuse in Kenya

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Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Kenya

What is a drug?

A drug is chemical substance which when taken changes the functioning of the body and the mind.

What is drug use?

Using a drug for its intended purpose, eg use of anti-malarial tablets to treat malaria, panadol to relieve pain etc.

What is drug abuse?

Drug abuse is the improper use of drugs, e.g. taking piriton to sleep instead of using it to treat allergy, sniffing glue instead of using it as an adhesive.

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Drugs Abused in Kenya

  1. Illicit (illegal) for example Heroine, Cocaine, Chang’aa, Bhang, Kuber, Mandrax,
  2. Licit (legal) drugs for example Alcohol (Beer, Wines & Spirits) Tobacco, Miraa.

Drugs and substances abused in Kenya include:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Tobacco
  3. Miraa/ khat
  4. Marijuana
  5. Inhalants and Solvents
  6. Heroin
  7. Cocaine
  8. Prescription Drugs – including sex enhancement drugs

Other drugs abused in Kenya include:

  1. Anabolic Steroids
  2. Contraceptives

Causes of Drug Abuse in Kenya

  1. Peer influence
  2. Low self-esteem
  3. Media influence (TV, magazines, internet)
  4. Rebellion against parents, teachers, religion etc
  5. Curiosity
  6. Lack of knowledge of drugs
  7. Poor role models .
  8. Frustrations from home, school, body changes etc
  9. Inability to achieve goals set thus feeling like a failure
  10. False ideas and perceptions. e.g. bhang enhances academic performance ..

Effects of Drug Abuse in Kenya

  1. Poor memory
  2. Reduced reasoning capacity
  3. Truancy and poor performance in school, sports and other activities.
  4. Poor concentration
  5. Dropping out of school.
  6. Suspension and expulsion from schools .
  7. Risky sexual behavior leading to early pregnancy & HIV/AIDS
  8.  Crimes like theft,violence,rape,incest,bestiality(sex with animals) leading to legal implications .
  9. Poor health
  10. Personal neglect
  11. Withdrawal and isolation from society
  12. Being shunned by the society .
  13. Personal guilt
  14. Poor relations with parents, teachers, siblings and peers .
  15. Physical and psychological addiction .
  16. Overdose of drugs can lead to DEATH.

Preventive Strategies to Drugs and Substance Abuse in Kenya

  1. Involve yourself in pleasurable activities like games, drama, clubs and societies etc
  2. Develop a good reading culture .
  3. Apply critical thinking e.g. asking yourself,why am I doing this?
  4. What for? What are the consequences of my actions?
  5. Develop mechanisms for dealing with difficulties, issues .
  6. Choose friends wisely .
  7. Develop your personal potential such as creativity,
  8. Appreciate, love and accept yourself as you are .
  9. Identify and pursue your purpose in life .
  10. Self awareness: identify your capabilities, strength, limitations, weaknesses and appreciate them .
  11. Be aware of your physical, mental and emotional changes taking place during adolescence and learn to cope.

Drug Addiction in Kenya

Addiction is the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors.

Addictions can include, but are not limited to, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, exercise abuse, pornography and gambling. Classic hallmarks of addiction include: impaired control over substances/behavior, preoccupation with substance/behavior, continued use despite consequences, and denial.

How does addiction start?

People try drugs or other potentially addictive behavior because they are seeking some sort of reward or benefit. Those who take drugs, for instance, do so because of the physical effects they hope to experience. Drugs have a marked effect on the body and mind. If there were no effect, people would be unlikely to repeat the experience. No one sets out just to become addicted.

Who’s at risk of addiction?

What makes some people more susceptible to becoming dependent or addicted is perhaps a genetic predisposition. This theory, with some evidence to support it, makes sense especially since addiction crosses social divides. However, this is still debatable.

There are also cultural and social factors that put people at greater risk. For instance, you’re less likely to become alcohol-dependent growing up in a country where alcohol consumption is unacceptable than where it’s a normal part of everyday life. Growing up in a family where there’s alcohol or drug abuse increases the risk. This is also the case for people who suffer childhood trauma, abuse and neglect.

Poverty, a lack of education and unemployment can also increase the risks. If your environment is stressful and you feel unable to change it, you may turn to substances for relief. Significant life events may contribute. If your inner world is in turmoil, you may turn to substances as medication to feel better.

People who don’t receive adequate nurture as children or who are more emotionally sensitive may be more susceptible. These factors won’t always lead to substance misuse or dependency or any other addictive behavior, but they can increase vulnerability.

Drug Abuse in Kenya

Drug Abuse in Kenya

Drug Addiction Treatment in Kenya

Drug addiction is a complex disease. It is a chronic, relapsing brain disease and involves a combination of ecological, physiological and historical factors. It is not voluntary behavior and is often a fatal illness.

Addiction treatment and rehabilitation in Kenya is largely a private sector and NGO affair dating back to 1978. Treatment and rehabilitation centers are few, operate in a policy vacuum and are expensive for the majority of Kenyans. The development of the National Standards by NACADA and stakeholders, training of professionals on treatment and counseling and developing the credentialing system for addiction professionals are milestones in treatment and rehabilitation.

Treatment services and opportunities may include detoxification, substitution or maintenance therapy and/or psychosocial therapies and counseling.


  1. No single treatment is appropriate for all individuals
  2. Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his/her  drug use
  3. Treatment must address medical, psychological, social, vocational, and  legal problems

The Duration of Treatment

Depends on patient problems/needs. Less than 90 days is of limited/no effectiveness for residential/outpatient setting. Mostly longer treatment is often indicated.

Medical Detoxification

Detoxification safely manages the physical symptoms of withdrawal and any symptoms of psychiatric and emotional disorders.  It is only the first stage of addiction treatment. Alone, it does little to change long-term drug use. The Focus on stabilization and takes a couple of days, usually 3 to 10


    1. Refers to the process by which a person presenting with a substance related problem achieves an optimal state of health psychological functioning and social well being devoid of substance abuse.
    2. The process may also be rehabilitation depending on clients needs.
    3. Typically follows detoxification and, if required, other medical and psychiatric treatment occurs.
    4. It encompasses a variety of approaches which may include psycho education ,group therapy, family therapy, specific behavior therapies to prevent relapse, involvement with a self-help group, residence in a therapeutic community or halfway house, vocational and survival skills training. There is an expectation of social reintegration into the wider community.
    5. The approaches used often depend on the model used.

Medications for drug addiction in Kenya

  1. Buprenorphine
  2. Methadone
  3. Naltrexone
  4. Antabuse/ disulfiram
  5. Nicotine Replacement
  6. Patches
  7. Gum


  1. A broad range of community-based service supports designed to maintain benefits when structured treatment has been completed.
  2. It may involve a continuation of individual or group counseling and other supports, but usually at a lower intensity and often by other agencies.
  3. Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are  important providers of aftercare services

Kenya and the National Campaign Against  Drug Abuse Authority (NACADA)

The Kenya Government recognizes the threat posed by alcohol and drug abuse in Kenya and the National Campaign Against  Drug Abuse Authority (NACADA) has been at the forefront in the war on drugs.

Drug Abuse in Kenya

Drug Abuse in Kenya

The Authority coordinates a two-pronged campaign — supply suppression and demand reduction. Supply suppression involves enforcing policy, legislation and other means to control production, trafficking and sale of alcohol and other drugs. Demand reduction involves providing preventive education, public awareness, life skills, treatment, rehabilitation and psycho-social support to the general public.

The country has made tremendous strides in the campaign against alcohol and drugs. The Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2010, came into operation on November, 22, 2010, repealing the Chang’aa Prohibition Act (Cap 70); and the Liquor Licensing Act (Cap 121) and empowering NACADA Authority to regulate the alcoholic drinks production and sale in the country.

All districts in the country have established districts alcoholic drinks regulation committees charged with implementing and enforcing the Act and subsequent regulations. The Authority held the first ever National Conference on Alcohol and Drug Abuse from January 25 to 27, 2012. The three day conference drew participants from research institutions, institutions of higher learning, government ministries, departments and agencies, faith based organizations, media, the Judiciary, and representatives of non-governmental organizations among others. A daily audience of 700 participants graced the conference. Deliberations included presentations by renowned personalities in the campaign against alcohol and drug abuse.

The key outcome of the forum was the acknowledgement that alcohol and drug abuse is a major socio-economic challenge in achieving the country’s development targets. Participants unanimously supported the declaration of alcohol and drug abuse a national disaster.

Inadequate personnel in addiction counseling and limited affordable rehabilitation services have been a constraint in the treatment and rehabilitation of persons with substance use disorders. To address the gap, the Authority launched a toll free helpline, 1192, in April, 2010, to provide 24-hour counseling and referral services for alcohol and drug abuse cases.

The service is providing counseling and referral advice to more than 2,500 Kenyans every month . In the period from July 2011 to June 2012,32,586 calls were attended to.

Further, the Authority supported setting up/ strengthening of treatment and rehabilitation services at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital by providing Kshs4.4 million. NACADA also trained nurses and social workers for 20 days on basic addiction counseling at Coast General Hospital.

Watch a video of drug abuse in Kenya – Coast Region

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