This month the scientific community is raising awareness on substance or chemical abuse — what is widely known as drug addiction. A series of workshops and conferences are being held globally to educate health workers and the public on the same.
The rise in recreational drugs locally points to a larger global epidemic. Hitherto strictly regulated substances are slowly gaining acceptance by society thanks to an emerging “liberal” mindset.
For starters, marijuana is being declassified in the US and Europe. Debate on doing the same here has also started, with the Senate being petitioned a few weeks ago.
While all drugs have a potential for grievous physical, emotional or psychological harm, none pose as much danger as the hard drugs.
In particular opioids abuse, especially in our coastal towns’ entertainment and hospitality industry raises serious concern. Nairobi’s increasingly cosmopolitan setup has seen the introduction of new “partying” trends too.
Pretty innocuous substances like cigarettes and alcohol are giving ground to partying drugs. According to data from the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse, the latter still form a small proportion of the drugs abused. However, the scale may not be visible given the covert nature of such activities.
Historically their use correlates with several highly infectious diseases like Hepatitis, HIV and others. This is what is ringing alarm bells amongst health workers: the potential infection spill-over to non-users.
Sometimes last year several cases presenting at emergency departments and in postmortems for unusual death in relatively young people raised enough concern to warrant a campaign on drugs of abuse to among health workers.
The objective apart from sensitising health workers on the need to have and implement screening protocols, also aimed at ensuring public health practitioners educated parents on tell-tale signs to look out for.
For medics, the big concern is their effects not just on the brain but other organs as well. Over the long course the kidneys, in particular, become vulnerable to insults from most of these abused substances.
The attendant cardiovascular morbidities that follow are all too obvious: sudden death or chronic debilitation.
In a strange twist though, addictions are not just limited to the public; health workers and doctors too are affected. The hard, frustrating and sometimes psychologically involving work we do, leads some of us to look for an escape outlet.
The potential negative impact of drug abuse on our work is noteworthy.
This has seen hospital administrators implement several protocols. One of this is the screening for substance abuse amongst medical staff in some international hospitals.
Left unchecked, the substance abuse epidemic will rise slowly and affect us all.