Africa is the new frontier for drug addicts
Africa is ripe as the new frontier of drug addicts thanks to increasing family breakdown, peer pressure, spiritual crises, avoiding reality, sexual hang-ups and youngsters across the continent trying to handle the hormonal turbulence of puberty among others factors that are turning African population people to mood-altering substances although not all.South Africa has long been the hub of drug addicts but Nigeria and Kenya are fast catching up.While in high school, one drug expert taught us that proponents of the disease model of addiction believes drug users with this affliction are like diabetics patients because they have a genetic code which can never be cured.Just as diabetics have to avoid sugar to survive, African junkies must stay clear of narcotics to live. However others without this code can use drugs without becoming dependant just as not all illicit drinkers become alcoholics.Drug use doesn’t necessarily lead to a ghastly death as drug addiction fighters in country like Kenya are making people believe and not even shock-horror programs work.The other fact not recognised in the current campaign in Kenya is that drugs are fun. They give pleasure, and who doesn’t seek that? That’s why millions of youths in Kenya use the legal drug nicotine.Not all psychologists accept the disease model. A South Africa researcher i spoke to recently say addiction is learned behavior and can be unlearned. Many youths in Africa’s most developed country can become addicts, though not necessarily to drugs. Working, gambling, shopping and eating to excess are all forms of addiction common in South Africa.The idea of responsible drug use by people who know the facts and use clean needles and condoms collides with the current laws and community values.
Harm reduction, as advocated by professionals in Cape Town,one of the most affected cities in the South Africa, is interpreted by religious moralists as an encouragement to sin.However, conservatives have long argued ignorance is bliss because the more people know the more likely to try and the logic is simple as abstainers never get HIV. Sadly that’s not true, as many monogamous lovers of promiscuous partners have discovered and even research has shown that Kenya, the third world’s most HIV affected country more than 50% of new infections are among the married or cohabiting partners.Appalling health problems are impacting on the whole African community already and is expanding. In a study of injecting drug users who used prostitutes in Lagos,the percentage of men who had unprotected sex was far higher in whole of Sub Saharan Africa than any other African city surveyed including Mombasa in Kenya and Johannesburg in South Africa.In Kenya, the same men go from brothels in areas like Likoni, Mtwapa in Mombasa, Lavington, Killeleshwa in Nairobi to marriage bed, passing on HIV to their innocent wives and their future children. Meanwhile their infected sex worker partner continues serving scores of clients. Experts working in HIV/AIDS programs have calculated that every day another 2,000 people are infected across the Mombasa and Nairobi, and the rate is accelerating. In Kenya as a whole, the trend has already started harming reduction programs, though these are reportedly being outpaced by disease.Experts in the region claim it’s impossible to stop people using drugs and having sex. Their opponents say they’re being weak and defeatist and that people must rise above their basic instincts as all religions advocate and that is very strong message being advocated in Kenya by religious organisations.For those who don’t know, Kenya was ranked as the most conservative society in Africa.
Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa are a confirmation that human psychology is sophisticated. The government health warnings on cigarette adverts and packages are explicit in Kenya and public smoking is prohibited and coffin nail users are supposed to smoke for designated areas.Smoking means one could get cancer, have a heart attack or become impotent. But sales continue to rise in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. That’s because smokers can point to a nicotine addict who’s still alive and assumes the deaths of others were from natural causes.Few light a smoke or take a hit and drop dead. The time between cause and effect can be years, so really effective campaigns focus on the immediate result. Psychologists have for long told us that people change their behavior when they realise their lives are unhappy. There are many ways of getting to that point, and most take time. Most drug addicts in Africa know about drugs but not safe sex and there is need to try and get information into the schools but not all want such information. Some schools because of religious affiliations impose restrictions.In Kenya, a country the government wanted to offer free condoms to High school students earlier this year, the word `condom’ is banned which makes the lesson ineffective. Ideally such a topic should be in the curriculum.Information about safe sex and drug addiction should be shared without reservations. Africa need strong organisation that will help fight bureaucracy, religious stereotypes and inadequate information to inform kids about drugs and sex addiction.I hope that when African kids become parents they’ll be able to communicate with their children about safe sex and drug addiction as the present generation of Parents in Africa finds it so difficult to address a yet undiscovered X-factor among their kids and youths.