Uasin Gishu county government has initiated a stakeholders meeting to review the alcoholic drinks control policy in a bid to contain irresponsible youth indulgence in substance abuse.
Chief executive in charge of Health Services Dr. Evelyne Rotich who presided over the opening session of the three-day workshop called on the need for a policy framework that will address the growing threat of production, consumption and trafficking of illicit and counterfeit alcohol through a multi-Agency teamwork approach.
She reiterated on the importance of involving youths in meaningful activities through a solid policy framework by training, educating and rehabilitating them away threats and exposure to drugs and substance abuse.
“Drugs have a negative impact on mental, physical and social health. Substance abuse is especially dangerous for youths because their brain is still developing and they are more likely to depend on drugs or alcohol later in their life if they learn bad habits while they are still young,” said Rotich.
She pointed out that fortunately, teens can adopt a healthy lifestyle and seek counselling in helping them reverse or heal the damage they may have caused themselves with Alcohol and substance use. Adding that rehabilitation is set to prevent damage by educating them on the adverse effects of drug use and encouraging them shun from its use.
She said that youths are more susceptible in contracting diseases and further become unhealthy and unproductive. “Youths engage in unprotected sex when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This can lead to the transmission of HIV or other sexually-transmitted diseases. Sharing needles and other drug paraphernalia can also spread illness or disease,” she noted.
The Director Alcoholic Drinks Control Board (ADCB) Mark Tarus said that Alcohol and drug abuse remains a major challenge that cuts across all sectors including security, health, manufacturing and housing among others.
He affirmed that drugs and substance abuse is especially dangerous for teens who already suffer from a mental disorder such as depression because the substances exacerbate depression tendencies.
He indicated that studies have shown that over 70 percent of adolescent suicides may be caused by drug and alcohol dependency and at least 25 percent of alcoholics and drug addicts commit suicide.
“Teens who use drugs are often looked down upon by others, which certainly doesn’t help a young person’s self-esteem and teenagers who use drugs might isolate themselves and avoid participating in healthy activities. They ultimately will feel like they don’t belong and they aren’t living up to their potential, which can ruin their confidence, motivation and make them feel guilty or depressed in the end leading to suicide,” said Tarus.
He further added that addiction is recognized as a disease that should be entrenched within the policies and laws to ensure that the wellbeing of the young people is addressed accordingly.
A study carried out by National Authority for Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) in Collaboration with Uasin Gishu County in 2016 posed a worrying trend and the findings show that 13.9% of the residents of Uasin Gishu County are currently using alcohol.
The leading sub-county in terms of current alcohol use is Moiben (21.6%) followed by Ainabkoi 18.8%, Soy 13.2%, Kapseret 12.6%, Turbo 11.8% and Kesses 6.5%.
More males are projected to be using alcohol (20.5%) compared to females (8.3%). In terms of age categories, the majority are 36 years and above (18.8%) followed by 25-35 years (12.5%), 18-24 years (7.3%) and 15-17 years (2.3%).
In terms of current use of specific types of alcoholic drinks in the county, chang’aa is the most commonly used (7.4%) followed by traditional liquor 6.7%, packaged/ legal alcohol 5.7% and lastly 2nd generation alcohol 0.3%. Ainabkoi sub-county has the highest usage of packaged/ legal alcohol (8.9%) while Moiben has the highest current usage of chang’aa (13.8%), traditional liquor (14.7%) and 2nd generation alcohol (0.9%) respectively.
The policy review is set to address the illegal production of Chang’aa and counterfeit alcohol that is back tracking the efforts in fighting against Alcohol and Substance Abuse.