Kampala – Uganda
At any given time, there are at least 140 people admitted at Butabika hospital over drug abuse, most of them youth between 18 and 25 years, the hospital acting executive director has said.
As the world marked the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking yesterday, Dr David Basangwa said there are a just few that make it to the hospital, adding that the problem is on the rise.
A separate study in Kampala found that 22 per cent of students used and abused drugs; alcohol, marijuana, and khat (mairungi) being the most abused in that order. The report further found that no school was free of drug abuse.
“Drug abuse is on the rise world over and here in Uganda we are facing the same problem. We have had to put some patients on the waiting list for admission because the bed capacity is not enough,” Dr Basangwa said. Drug abusers constitute 20 per cent of patients admitted to Butabika usually as a result of severe mental illness.
Dr Basangwa and other experts say most drug abusers start while at school or university, they get messed up, drop out of school and usually form the highest percentage of gangsters.
Mr Bennett Alinda, the executive director of the United Initiative Alliance for Youth, an organisation that educates youth against using and abusing drugs, said most students engage in the vice because it has become ‘the new cool’ in schools.
Mr Alinda, himself a student, said during his time at school, most students started taking drugs because they wanted to keep up with peer groups, feel good and appear bold.
The principal medical officer, Mental Health and Control of Substance at the Ministry of Health, Dr Sheila Ndyanabangi, said weak laws against drug traffickers, lack of awareness of both parents and pupils were some of the bottlenecks to raising a drug abuse free society.
She said a drug control master plan was currently under way together with the Narcotics Control Bill in Parliament, which if enacted, would increase penalty for drug dealers and also help rehabilitate drug abusers.