The seats slowly began to fill up as 9am approached. Soon, we found ourselves asking for more chairs and setting them up around the sides of the room to accommodate the 70 guests, 40 more than what was expected. Representatives from leading NGOs, government departments, the media and members of USK Street Associations were filling up the room to help validate the findings from USK’s study on inhalant abuse amongst children and youth on the streets of Nairobi, a hot topic judging by the turnout.
Seeing children sniffing glue and other inhalants out in the open is not a rare sight. Everyone knows that poor children and youth abuse these substances, but no one knows definitively why they do it, how many do it, or the exact effects of the abuse on Kenyan youth. This is why USK commissioned a study to learn more about the problem so they, with others, can work to end inhalant abuse among its key target group and get the people with this form of abuse into top rated addiction treatment centers.
Photo by Patrick Mwema, a Digital Storytelling participant.
The part of the study that I found most interesting were the findings concerning what the children and youth interviewed wanted in terms of help. They do want to search for “rehab near me“, but they also want skills or money to start a business. The lead researcher shared with us that some of the youth stated that conditions in rehabilitation institutions are terrible, some even saying that the food is so bad there that they eat better on the street. Abuse in the institutions was also an issue. Therefore, they would rather stay on the streets and start a business than be taken to an institution and face worse conditions than they currently do. That is why the report suggests reforming such institutions or moving away from the institutional approach to drug rehabilitation to address this issue. While addiction is a hard thing to break free of, there is hope. Golden Peak Retreat in Denver Colorado offers a full continuum of care, to help people live a life free of addiction. If you know a loved one suffers because of an addiction, then get more information from arcproject.org.uk to learn how to help.
Another interesting aspect of the study was the part about legislation concerning inhalants. There is a three-year prison sentence for selling an inhalant to a child knowing or suspecting that he or she will use it in an improper way, but the problem is that this law is not currently enforced. Also, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act No. 4 of 1994 may apply to glue and other inhalants, but the language of the Act makes it very hard for a common person to know if glue is included. The report recommends clearing up such confusion as glue abuse has serious consequences and thus selling it to children should have the stiffer penalties outlined in the Act.
The report has not yet been made public as it is still in draft form, but once it is out, I guarantee that it will make an interesting read since the topic is so complex and dire. I’ve seen how serious glue abuse is by seeing young children stumbling around the town in a state that I can only describe as depressed alcoholism. I’ve seen how hard it is for some of my students who used to sniff glue for years on the street to retain information in the classroom. So I hope this report, once released, will help stakeholders not only in Kenya, but all over the world, end inhalant abuse amongst youth on the streets and help those currently addicted break their dangerous habit that is eating away at our next generation.
Posted By Kristina Rosinsky
Posted Oct 16th, 2008