• No scientific study has been done to determine if muguka causes more damage
• But care provider warns the increased use of muguka could be a ticking time bomb
Muguka, a variety of khat, is doing more damage to people in Mombasa than bhang, says the Mombasa Women Empowerment Network (Mwen).
According to voi2day.com, muguka grows mostly in the dry lowland areas of Embu. Users chew the freshly plucked buds and soft leaves.
In contrast, the variety of khat grown in Meru is known there as miraa, and it requires more rainfall.
Mwen runs a programme where they round up mentally ill people roaming the streets of Mombasa, treat them and release them to their families after they recover.
Network chair Amina Abdalla says out of the 90 people who have gone through the programme, 80 were addicted to muguka.
“We anticipated that most would be addicted to bhang, which we know has been the traditional stimulant that has had a history of affecting the brain functioning of those who are addicted,” Abdalla says.
“However, we were surprised to realise most of those we treated were actually addicted more to muguka than bhang. We think it is time the government starts taking this muguka more seriously,” she says.
Dr Muinga Chokwe, a psychiatrist, says he cannot determine if muguka causes more damage than bhang because there has to be a scientific study to ascertain that.
“But basically, both have amphetamine-like substances that have certain mental effects. It is also true that more people use muguka because it is cheaper and more readily available,” Chokwe says.
He says later, both bhang and muguka cause psychotic conditions. “It is a real threat,” the psychiatrist says.
A packet of muguka ranges from Sh20-50 and is sold in the open. This means many people can afford and access it, unlike bhang, which is sold on the streets but secretly.
Abdalla calls on the government to take urgent steps to address the increased use of muguka, which she says is a ticking time bomb.
“If the government does not take quick action, our youth may be unproductive in the near future and this may be detrimental to the economy,” she says.
She proposes a ban on the herbs, which she says may be more powerful in terms of damaging the youth than bhang. She says some eat muguka as food.
“When they chew muguka, they cannot eat. Then they just stay awake for the rest of the night and use the same muguka in the morning, which they say is to treat the hangover from the previous night,” she says.
Edited by T Jalio