Khat, marijuana most used drugs by Ugandan adolescents

Khat, marijuana most used drugs by Ugandan adolescents
Men and women in Maua, in Meru County, Kenya prepare Khat to be raced to Nairobi for packing. They peel off the leaves which lose potency quickly, and pack the stems in banana leaves before loading them up on souped up pick-up trucks. Maua is the Khat production center of Kenya.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Khat and Marijuana have been listed as the drug of choice for many adolescent boys and young men, according to findings of a study by Makerere University School of Public Health.

Khat is a flowering plant which contains a stimulant believed to cause excitement, euphoria and loss of appetite among users. According to the report, a total of 2,500 adolescent boys and young men aged between 10 and 24 participated in a survey conducted in August 2020 in all the five divisions of Kampala.

They were asked whether they have ever used an illegal substance and the substance they preferred. The study involved both schools going and out of schoolboys and young men. Findings from the study showed that 50 per cent of the people who took part in the study had used a drug between January and August 2020.

The findings show that 12 per cent of adolescents and young men aged 19-24 years used Khat compared to 10 per cent who preferred marijuana. The use of the drugs was more prevalent in boys or men aged 14-29 years and less than one per cent of the boys aged 10-14 years of age.

Dr Joseph Matovu, a co-principal investigator on the study says that the use of drugs is very high and needs to be addressed.

Dr Steven Kabwama, the other investigator says that the use of khat was more prevalent in boys that are not in school. “These effects were higher in adolescent boys out of school, while the use of khat was six times higher among boys out of school compared to their counterparts in schools,” Kabwama said.

An estimated 13.8 per cent of drug usage was among boys and young men out of schools compared to 2.6 per cent who are enrolled in school. The use of khat was associated with its easy availability compared to other types of drugs. Five hundred Shillings can get you four stems of the drugs.

The study also found that one in three boys had consumed alcohol in the past few months. 23.7 per cent of those who consumed alcohol were enrolled in school compared to 52 per cent who were out of school.

Dr Matovu says most boys who consumed both alcohol and drugs did so in the presence of their peers.  He says interventions are needed to target adolescents so that the use of drugs and alcohol can be reduced.

Matovu adds that interventions targeting boys and young men through friends, siblings and other people who influence the behaviours of young men like advertisements need to make.

Read Also: More Ugandan women abusing marijuana – Study

A 2016 study published in the US National Library of Medicine – National Institute of Health found that alcohol followed by kuber and then khat were the most abused substances in secondary schools within Kampala and Gulu. 

Dr Daniel Okello, the Director of Public Health and Environment at Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) says that the use of the drugs within Kampala is an issue that needs to be addressed.

“In high-end circles, you find that cocaine is commonly used while in the low end its kuber and khat. Drug use is a very big issue that we need to address in our schools and communities,” he said.