Drug Awareness Day 26062018 95
Staff members and volunteers from Counseling Center march on campus, to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Wednesday, June 27. From Left to right (front): Ms. Noelle Khayanje (Senior Counselor) and Ikeije Obinna (Psychology major). PHOTO: ANTONIO LONGANGI

By Simeon P. Sungi

This year’s commemoration of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was held for the first time in Africa, at the United Nations Office in Nairobi on June 26, where the inaugural World Drug Report 2018 was launched.

The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was established by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 42/112 of December 7, 1987 to strengthen global action and cooperation.

In delivering his keynote address, Nairobi Senator Hon. Johnson Sakaja, noted that the Government of Kenya is firmly resolved to respond to the illicit drug epidemic, even suggesting that Parliament should strengthen legislation dealing with drug abuse, for example, amending the Pharmacy and Poisons Act (Chapter 244) of the Laws of Kenya to seal all the loopholes that allow, for instance chemists to sell prescription drugs without proper prescription notes from a doctor. He also emphasized the need to focus on mental health in responding to individuals who are drug addicts.
The World Drug Report 2018 highlighted the following issues; the opioid crisis, the expansion of prescription drug abuse, as well as cocaine and opium use, and found that these hard drugs use had reached new record highs.

The report also highlighted the fact that Fentanyl and associated drugs remain a global problem. What’s more, opioid used to treat moderate and moderate-to-severe pain is now a growing concern in parts of Africa and Asia. The report’s findings also show that drug markets are expanding, with cocaine and opium production also hitting high records.

The report investigated inter alia, the correlation between drug use and age, finding a positive correlation between drug use and age. Drug use and associated health consequences were found to be high among young people (aged 12-40) than older people (aged 40 and above). Cannabis topped the list of illicit drugs as a drug of choice consumed by young people. In explaining the correlation, the report found two extreme typologies of drug use among young people: One, club drugs in nightlife settings, and two, inhalants among street children.

University students have been identified as a group that has been hit hard by the drug menace. The Standard Newspaper on April 13, 2017 ran an article titled “The painful reality about drug abuse in Kenyan Universities” which highlighted illicit drug abuse in college campuses in Kenya. In addition to prosecuting sellers and traffickers of hard drugs, establishments that expose students to drug use, should lose their business licenses and be permanently closed down.

Alcohol and drug abuse is not just a criminal justice issue, but rather a public health and a social problem. Instead of punitive responses to the drug addiction problem in college campuses, creation of policies that address the root cause of the drug addiction problem among young people will likely be most effective.

At USIU- Africa, a taskforce is already working to propose policies and strategies for effectively dealing with alcohol and drug abuse at institutional level. Additional resources for Counseling Services at university campuses, will also be more effective in ensuring implementation of such policies and strategies, once they are drawn up.

To read the World Drug Report 2018 visit https://www.unodc.org/wdr2018/