Recent unsettling reports have emerged regarding the abuse of sedative medicines to drug unsuspecting revellers. Reportedly, criminals propagate this malpractice in cahoots with unscrupulous medics and drug outlets.
Herein, medicines such as anxiolytics and tranquilisers, whose major indications include the clinical management of psychiatric illnesses and pain conditions, are misused to sedate party-goers with the sole objective of robbing them or even perpetrating sexual crimes.
Mostly, this is done through secretive lacing of alcoholic drinks or foods with higher than recommended doses of the medicines to stupefy the victims. This is referred to as ‘spiking’. In some cases, this crime has resulted in the deaths of the victims due to respiratory depression — suppression of the body’s breathing functions.
Whereas these are prescription-only drugs, criminals have found ways of accessing them through pharmacies that do not restrict access to such medicines. The other conduit for accessing these drugs is through practitioners who unethically sell them to criminals.
This report of an unethical abuse of dangerous medicines calls for the establishment of stricter controls on their access.
This is the purview of regulators such as the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, which regulates pharmacies and practitioners, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council which regulates health facilities and the professional conduct of doctors, the Clinical Officers Council and the Nursing Association of Kenya that regulates the professional conduct of nurses.
To stem this vice, a prudent way forward would involve the Ministry of Health regulators in identifying operational loopholes that allow pilferage of the dangerous medicines. What would then follow is stricter legislation on access controls and stringent regulations, including hefty penalties for the abuse of the medicines.