Drug addicts in East Africa and escaping the crackdowns

April 22, 2017

The first half of 2017 is not even over and police in East African region have recently discovered millions of marijuana rolls as well as over 100 kilos of cocaine, heroin and crystal methamphetamine. Although the governments in the region have increased their efforts to reduce the amount of drugs, specifically marijuana, heroin and cocaine, coming in from Asia and South America, decreasing supply and demand is proving to be incredibly difficult.Several numbers have been given to the public regarding the amount of drug addicts in the region however, an exact number is unknown. The most recent number was put at 3 million out of a total population of 150 million East Africans although it is likely to be much higher than this. The dramatic rise of methamphetamine and marijuana use in the region can be partly blamed on the lack of education regarding these harmful drugs. Some East Africans consider these drugs to be fine, even acceptable, because they are believed to be un-addictive. This idea has unfortunately lead a large number of people to use these drug as if they were only an energy drink. This is not to say that an energy drink is not harmful in any way because they too are addictive, but they are not as harmful or dangerous as cocaine or methamphetamine.According to a security researcher whom i quoted yesterday, the addicts are both local and foreigners who visit the coastal cities like Malindi, Mombasa and Dar Es Salaam as well as Lakeside towns of Kisumu, Mwanza and Entebbe. Despite the fact that many online stories and videos show Mombasa Kenya as a drug hub, the reality for the vast majority of tourists in Kenya is that drugs are not that easy to find. At least, not as easy as in some European countries or America. And then, of course, there’s the possibility of paying a heavy price if you’re caught by the Kenyan police with something in your hands. But drugs are hardly rare in a city like Mombasa, as security researcher explains. “It depends on the people you hang out with and if your gang knows someone in the business, you have access to everything,” he says. From cocaine to marijuana, one of the most popular Kenyan nightclubs highs.Finding random dealers in a club around Mombasa, a common practice in the West, is not the usual thing in Kenya’s coastal city. Security researcher says many users prefer to take their dose at home. Almost people entering clubs are checked at the door, as do most of the events.Most tourist’s particular drug problem is with crystal methamphetamine, known commonly on the street as Ice.Synthesised by Asian drug gangs who are entrenching their business in Kenya, methamphetamine at 100% purity is readily available according to the security researcher.

It’s now one of the most common drug in East African region, and a very powerful one.Also available is ‘red card’ a drug that comprise of 40% methamphetamine and mixed with caffeine are the drugs causing the biggest worry to the security researchers.They know that its becoming the most common drug and are making huge efforts to stop its distribution but the efforts have been curtailed by limited resources.The ‘red card’ comes in the form of a small round tablet. It is often red, but can be availed in other colors. Some have Asian drug gangs logos on them while others may be grape or vanilla flavoured. It is most commonly consumed orally or smoked, but it can also be crushed and snorted or injected.It’s not uncommon to see news of operations to dismantle the distribution systems of drugs in the region. While other drugs like cocaine and marijuana can be popular in East Africa and especially in Mombasa, the locally produced drugs that are cheaper are still the main problem.Coastal region in East Africa has always had more than a stigma association to drugs. When it was first discovered more than four decades ago that tourists coming into the region some of them were drug mules, the production moved to the low income areas and drug use boomed throughout poor neighbourhoods in every coastal city.Every government in the recent history has made big efforts to fight drug abuse.The results are noticeable, Kenya and Tanzania are no longer a place where foreigners can find drugs easily but security researcher claim that as the region has developed, drug users have still grown in number. More money in the pockets of Kenyans and Tanzanians means more chances to buy and use drugs.That explains why other drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy and ketamine are now more popular in big cities like Mombasa and Dar Es Salaam. The youngsters have more money to spend and more opportunities to buy.Cocaine, heroin and Ice are, for East African authorities, the enemy to beat. As it was couple of decades ago. Their idea is to stop the consumption, which will cut off the distribution. But so many addicts in Mombasa and Dar Es Salaam have already found other ways to find and use drugs. And as security researcher says, avoiding the police checks is not very difficult. Drug addicts tricks are to do it at home with friends before going out. That means police can’t easily find addicts with something in their pockets. As the crackdown operation grows as witnessed in Kenya and Tanzania in the last few months, so too does the duplicity of East Africa’s drug users.The most important thing that must happen in East African region is for the public, especially children and adolescents, to become properly educated about drugs and the disastrous effects that can occur as a result from abuse or addiction. In addition, it is important that any addict and their family understands that there is no shame in getting treatment for their addiction and it is in fact the best thing that anyone can do.Drug users in the region can get help. It may be difficult and will not happen overnight, but with proper treatment including therapy, education, and support, sobriety can be achieved.

Contador Harrison