Study reveals broad a***e of over-the-counter d***s

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023 07:30 | By
Study reveals broad abuse of over-the-counter drugs
A pharmacist arranges medicines at the counter of a chemist in the CBD. PD/FILE

A new study has revealed widespread and disturbing abuse of prescription drugs readily available in pharmacies among youths.

According to the findings of the report, the problem is widespread across the country since it presents the youth with a cheaper alternative for getting “high” despite the negative health effects associated with the abuse of prescription drugs.

 “Laboratory report showed that out of a total of 204 samples submitted to the Government Chemist for analysis, 196 of them were positively identified while eight samples had no drugs detected,” the findings of the report released yesterday showed.

According to the report, the youth said they only have to go to pharmacies with very little money to get the drugs.

“If I want to buy my drug, I will just go to a chemist and they are going to sell to me,” a 24-year-old youth is quoted saying.

“With only Sh20, I am able to buy a few tablets that will make me feel good,” another said.

“When I do not have money to buy heroin, I will buy “ma-white” (street name for benxhexol) and use them to cover for missing heroin,” a 32-year-old told the FGD.

Legal highs

Asked for reasons they abuse prescription drugs, they said that these are considered ‘legal highs’ and thus a better alternative to illicit drugs like narcotics.

“I do not fear being arrested for taking these drugs. If you are caught using heroin or marijuana by police, you are going to be arrested. I don’t fear to hide when taking these drugs because you can get them from a chemist or a hospital,” said one of the FDG participants.

Another saying: “I always take bugizi (street name for rohypnol) before I go to commit a crime. It gives me the courage not to fear anything. Even when I hurt somebody, tomorrow I will not remember what I did.”

The report further showed an emerging trend in the use of smokeless tobacco, nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes or vaping devices. Other new forms of tobacco products identified were shisha pens, nicotine pouches and electronic nicotine delivery systems or e-cigarettes.

 In terms of nicotine strength, snuff was most potent followed by tamboo, ndovu, nicotine pouches and lastly shisha flavours. The assessment was undertaken by National Authority for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) in collaboration with Pharmacy and Poisons Board, Government Chemist and Interior Ministry. Data was collected through focus group discussions (FGDs) with key informants knowledgeable on emerging drugs and substances of abuse.

Confirmatory results

Of the total samples submitted for analysis, confirmatory results showed 68 samples were prescription drugs, 49 samples were cannabis, 38 were tobacco, 25 were heroin, 16 samples were categorized as others while 8 had negative results.

Further analysis showed that diazepam was the most widely abused prescription drug representing 35.2 per cent of the 68 samples followed by benzhexol (artane) at 22 per cent, flunitrazepam (rohypnol) at 14.7 per cent, amitriptyline at 7.3 per cent.

Other drugs detected are chlorpromazine, codeine, carbamazepine and tramadol. “Findings revealed abuse of prescription drugs was widespread across the country where 12 out of the 18 sampled counties had confirmed results of prescription drugs abuse. The affected counties included Nairobi, Garissa, Meru, Marsabit, Makueni, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Busia, Kisumu, Uasin Gishu and Nyeri,” the findings show.

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