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February 20, 2019

Why heroin’s popularity is increasing in city slums

Heroin addicts prepare the drug before use in Lamu November 21, 2014. /FILE
Heroin addicts prepare the drug before use in Lamu November 21, 2014. /FILE

A gram of heroin is cheaper than a beer and it’s getting very popular in informal settlements with a number of jobless youth.

Githurai, Mathare, Dandora, and Kibera are among areas with the highest number of users. A gram of heroin on average sells for Sh100 and Sh150.

Vincent Mutua, a Nacada board member, told the Star the primary reason for escalation in heroin use is the high rate of unemployment.

"Unemployment means that these young people are idle and therefore they resort to drugs," he said.

Most residents in informal settlements are involved in small-scale businesses, usually in makeshift structures or beside roads and sewers. Their income is minimal.

Psychiatrist Dr Peter Kumanthat lax law enforcement contributes to the problem. “The abuse of heroin is a big security risk. The office of the county commissioner, police and Nacada should do a better n cracking down on traffickers bringing in heroin through Kenya’s entry points,” he said.

Kumantha said the laxity has increased the confidence of peddlers, who sell drugs freely.

James, a former heroin addict currently in rehab, said his addiction started in high school and was fuelled by easy access and low price.

"You find that a lot of youth are attracted to heroin because it’s very cheap and it’s what most of us can afford," he said.

According to a study by the Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies, in the Kosovo-Mathare area, 70 per cent of muggings are associated with drugs and substance abuse.

"As my addiction grew, I started committing in petty crime because I needed money. I rarely slept at night because it was the ideal time to steal from people as they came from work or when they were fast asleep."

Nacada started the Nacada Mashinani that engages the community in the discussion of drugs and substance abuse.

"The programme is meant to create awareness and talk about prevention. We are going to all these informal settlements and engaging everyone from local authorities, religious leaders, and the local residents," Mutua said.

Kumatha said reducing the demand for heroin in these areas will go a long way in reducing the supply of the drug.

"We need to target the heroin addicts and educate them on the dangers of using the drug. Friends and relatives of people using heroin should take the addicts to treatment centres," he said.

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