The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has sounded the alarm on the escalating mental health crisis among Sierra Leone’s youth due to the rampant use of the drug known as Kush.
Chief Andrew Jaiah Kaikai, the Executive Director of NDLEA, made this declaration during an inter-ministerial and multi-sectoral partners’ drug abuse sensitization event.
Kaikai emphasised the government’s concern regarding the surge in drug abuse cases, particularly among the youth population, and highlighted the urgent need for regulation and control measures to curb the proliferation of Kush. Describing Kush as a potent and easily accessible substance akin to heroin or cocaine, Kaikai pointed out the lack of stringent regulation due to financial constraints, enabling its widespread availability and use among youths.
While official data on Kush-related deaths is unavailable, Kaikai estimated that approximately a dozen Kush users perish weekly in Sierra Leone, often found in the streets and slums. During their sensitization efforts near a bustling market in Freetown Magazine Cut, NDLEA officials observed alarming scenes of youths in a trance-like state, consuming Kush in makeshift gatherings.
The dire consequences of Kush addiction were vividly illustrated through the testimonies of afflicted individuals like Mama G, a homeless former married woman who lost her family and belongings to sustain her addiction. Victims recounted resorting to theft and other desperate measures to feed their habit, underscoring the devastating impact of Kush on families and communities.
Originating roughly six years ago in Sierra Leone, Kush is manufactured and distributed by criminal syndicates, with its composition varying and often containing dangerous substances like Fentanyl and tramadol. Despite the government’s efforts to combat the epidemic, including the establishment of a rehabilitation center, the influx of Kush persists, facilitated by porous borders and illegal smuggling routes.
Kaikai reiterated the urgent need for collaborative efforts among various government agencies and international partners to address the crisis comprehensively. Law enforcement agencies have made strides in intercepting narcotics shipments, resulting in numerous arrests and the dismantling of drug cartels across the country.