More Ugandan women abusing marijuana – Study

Marijuana smoking on the rise in Uganda

Kampala, Uganda | URN | A new study has found alcohol to be the commonest substance of abuse used in Kampala followed by cannabis, also known as marijuana that is mostly abused by women.

According to the study, 41 per cent of the females in rehabilitation centers confessed using cannabis. 

In the study in which researchers at the Makerere University School of Public Health also sought to establish the country’s first epidemiological alcohol and drug abuse surveillance system, they found that the rehabilitation centers are mostly attended by youth below 30 years of age who have attained education.

Dr Nazarius Mbona Tumwesigye, the lead researcher said 84 per cent of all the clients attending rehabilitation at the 10 facilities sampled have at least attained secondary level education.

Data of all attendees in the 10 facilities including Butabika National Mental Referral Hospital, Serenity Center and Harm Reduction Center was analyzed between November 2019 and June whereby in addition to inquiring into each client’s substance of abuse, the researchers also checked their HIV and Hepatitis C status. 

10 per cent of the attendees are living with HIV and 13.1 per cent had tested for Hepatitis C.

Mbona also said that majority of the attendees confessed getting the drugs from street dealers who account for 51 per cent followed by friends at 37 per cent. 

Overall, the majority of the drugs were used daily with 91% of respondents saying they used drugs every day.

Speaking at the launch of the findings on Tuesday 13th, October 2020 evening, Prof Noah Kiwanuka, the head of the Department Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Makerere University urged the government to put in place interventions that limit access to drugs, warning that exposure to drugs by young adults puts the future of the country at threat.

According to Kiwanuka, although a comprehensive study has not yet been done to show the countrywide burden of drug abuse, anecdotal data shows it’s only a few families that have not had a case of drug abuse saying several people are abusing them in secrecy. 

Dr Hafsa Lukwata who heads the mental health and substance abuse division in the Ministry of Health said the government has already noticed the problem of abuse and this data helps redirect them on what needs to be urgently tackled.

On alcohol abuse she says, the cabinet has just passed an alcohol control policy in which they have limited access to those aged 21 and above. She also says that the policy proposes not to serve alcohol during government ceremonies in addition to making it punishable to drink in the open say on roads. 

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However, on the increased use of cannabis which the study shows peaking in April, Lukwata was asked whether the move by the government to allow growing will not increase the problem and she said they are planning to start licensing growers but under very strict guidelines. 

Among the study participants, they reported drug abuse to have impacted the life whereby 30 per cent report being ever arrested, 24 per cent dropped out of school whereas 28 per cent lost their jobs.  

Most of them report having started to use drugs due to financial strain at 37 per cent, 34 per cent reported having family issues, 27 per cent work issues and 29 per cent reported sexual relationship challenges.