BY TEZRA KISAKYE
Elias Mugabe, a resident of Kawuga-Mukono, spends the better part of his day chewing mairungi- a common narcotic drug leaf.
For the last five years, mairungi, internationally known as khat, has been his breakfast because it helps him beat hunger and stay awake. Indeed, looking beneath his ripped, pale blue jeans, I see a bunch of the leaves ready for chewing.
Drug users display signs of increased alertness, excitement, energy, talkativeness, decreased appetite and difficulty in sleeping.
Health expert Henry Mukiibi from Serenity rehabilitation centre believes drug use in Uganda is on the increase and is being propagated as ‘trendy’ amongst the youth especially students.
“Cocaine, in its purest form, is white although what is sold in Uganda is usually mixed with other substances like baking soda, sugar and other drugs like CPZ lime giving it a pinkish or off-white colour. Mukono Taxi Park is the dealers’ place,” says Elias Mugabe.
Charlse Waswa, a peer mentor with the Anti-Drug and Alcohol Abuse Movement (ADDAM), says cocaine may be eaten, smoked, snorted or injected into one’s body.
“Due to its euphoria-inducing effects as well as its ability to increase sex drive, it usually makes people engage in more sex than they normally would, which may spread disease, especially HIV,” Waswa explains.
In its purest form, heroin, locally called embaawo, is a white powder but is mostly brown in colour because of the presence of impurities. Heroin is usually measured with an overgrown nail on the little finger and each scoop costs Shs 20,000 whereas a gramme costs Shs 60,000.
“A tin foil containing heroin powder is heated underneath and this turns it into liquid. Users, either inhale the fumes or inject the liquid,” Mukiibi explains.
Marijuana or weed, enjagga, ganja or dude is smoked and dissolved in water for consumption. It is a green or brown mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the Cannabis Sativa plant. According to the Grace Semwogere from Mukono local police marijuana is mainly grown in Wakiso, Mukono, Luweero, Kalangala, Masaka, Bushenyi, Kyenjojo, Iganga, Busia and Bugiri districts.
“At only Shs 300 a stick, marijuana is easily available, making it the commonest drug in Uganda; even cops use it,”Elias Mugabe confirms.
“Signs and symptoms may include restlessness, inability to experience pleasure, fatigue, increased sleep, vivid dreams, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, drug craving and increased appetite,” explains Dr. Jonathan Semanda of Euro Care Clinic.
James Ssali (not real name) first tasted beer during his S.6 vacation under peer influence. As the only one working, hence the richest in the group, his friends often lured him with ‘plot’ of clubs every night.
“I made friends with corporate guys I found in club and they introduced me to ‘hard stuff’ and those days, it was hard to find me without a hangover,” Ssali narrates, adding that these friends encouraged him to kill the hangover with a colder beer.
Soon, he was caught up in the vicious cycle of boozing, so much so that he was known by the sellers who would sometimes give him booze on credit.
Causes of drug use
Mukiibi says that the availability of the drugs on the market and glorification of drugs on the internet, TV and bashes draws people to their use.
John Omek from UCU counselling department urges students who suffer addiction to seek professional help since it is free of charge at UCU. He also adds, “avoid hanging around people who encourage the addiction.”