Mental illness as a result of abusing bhang on the increase - BREAKING KENYA NEWS

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Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Mental illness as a result of abusing bhang on the increase

Smoking bhang. Photo/FILE
Man smoking bhang. In some parts of Western Kenya, smoking bhang is a way of life. PHOTO | FILE | NMG
By DERRICK LUVEGA 
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In some parts of Western Kenya, smoking bhang is a way of life.
For instance, in Luanda and Emuhaya constituencies of Vihiga County, the drug is talked about casually and is often smoked openly by both the young and old.
During a recent visit to Esihuli Village in Emuhaya Sub-county, the Nation found two reformed addicts, Mr Raphael Ingati and Mr Albert Matende, who now campaign against drugs.
They started using drugs at the age of 14.
ARRESTED
Health officials and recovering addicts blame the local administration, including the county government, and the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) for abetting the use of bhang.
Mental illness as a result of abusing bhang on the increase
“They are not firm in the fight against the drug. Most users of bhang take it at funerals, and the administration knows where to get them and stop further use,” Mr Matende says.
He accuses police of taking bribes to look the other way.
Police reports in Vihiga County show that bhang consumption is common in local towns, especially Luanda, and that efforts by the local administration to fight the vice have failed.
In a past interview, Vihiga OCPD Justin Nyagah said: “Consumption of bhang is a major concern in all towns in this county. We mostly arrest consumers and sellers, but we have never found a plantation of bhang.
Some of the sellers we arrested told us they get the drug from Busia. Luanda has many consumers, going by the arrests we have made.”
Many consumers believe that bhang boosts their energy. “After taking the drug, I could till large sections of land without getting tired,” says Mr Ingati, who stopped using bhang in 1977.
But increased bhang use is worrying experts in the region.
REHABILITATION
“Consumption is on the increase,” says Vihiga County mental officer Andrew Ngida. “Even with the high number of mental patients coming in due to the use of bhang, we are yet to see a spirited fight against drug use, like in the past. Figures show that use in Emuhaya and Luanda is on the higher side.”
This is putting pressure on the department that has only three psychiatrists and only one treatment point in Mbale, Dr Ngida says.
“It is disturbing that women sell this drug while boda boda operators are used to ferry it. We can’t continue sitting back and watching as families are destroyed at such a high rate,” says Vihiga County Commissioner Susan Waweru.
Mental health officials say they are receiving many mental cases resulting from addiction on drugs, mainly bhang.
“In a month, we attend to an average of 200 drug addicts, 30 per cent of whom use bhang. This is alarming There is no rehabilitation centre in the county to offer the much-needed care and recovery. Bars are being licensed without inspection, making them openly sell such drugs as the law enforcers, watch,” Dr Ngida says.
“We are aware that that sachets are smuggled into the county, mostly through the Busia border point in Uganda,” says Trade Executive Geoffrey Vukaya.
ACT CRAZY
It is not clear why they are yet to take action on the smugglers or withdrawn the licences of the sellers, when, as they say, they are aware of smuggling.
“Those selling the liquor packaged in sachets should desist from today or else they will pay hefty fines and have their businesses closed,” he warned for the umpteenth time.
County Police Commander Hassan Barua also says the substances are smuggled into the country from Uganda but blames the area residents.
Mr Ingati and Mr Matende say most youths start taking drugs due to peer pressure. They say bhang smoking saw them quit school, adding that they would do anything just to get enough for the day.
“I was arrogant. I did not fear anyone. After taking the drug, I would act crazy and laugh at the shoe I was wearing. I would also get into fights and steal.
“Police would arrest us, but we bribed our way to freedom and continued smoking. I used bhang for 15 years,” the reformed addict adds.
 The father of seven says four of his children also started taking bhang, but after talking to them, three gave up the habit.
 Mr Matende's says that, fortunately, three children has experimented with bhang.

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