West Africa Faced With Illicit Drug Epidemic

Half a decade after its introduction, the narcotic kush has spread throughout Sierra Leone, afflicting whole neighborhoods and villages. Many people with an addiction are sedated upon arrival to the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital in Freetown because of their aggressive tendencies; people with an addiction have recently overrun the hospital. As the only institution in Sierra Leone that actively treats kush addicts, the Teaching Hospital uses seclusion therapy and antipsychotic medications to assist patients in overcoming their addiction.

Young people resort to kush to “avoid the harsh realities of life.” This problem is exacerbated by Sierra Leone’s already high youth unemployment rate. Some people’s mental health might take a nosedive when they’re addicted to kush; others have described leg swelling, infections, and open sores. Users have been known to do things like walk into traffic, fall from great heights, or beat their skulls against walls repeatedly, all of which may be lethal. According to health authorities, over a dozen people in Sierra Leone die every week from kush usage; the remains of these people are often found in the slums and streets.

More than one million individuals in West Africa are reportedly hooked to drugs or alcohol, and the epidemic is spreading quietly. Since Liberia’s healthcare system is underfunded, many people resort to using kush as an alternative to meet their significant psychological needs. The drug problem in the country has taken a political turn, with accusations leveled against former president George Weah during his reelection bid that he tolerated drug use and sales.

The kush substance allegedly enters Guinea from Sierra Leone via the country’s weak borders, according to Guinean authorities. The Kambia area in Sierra Leone is attracting a lot of attention from the authorities because it has become a significant hub for drug trafficking.

A Freetown hotel was the site of a November meeting of government officials, religious leaders, civil society organizations, and youth-focused groups to address Sierra Leone’s drug problem more responsibly and practically. Instead of punishing users, the government aims to decriminalize and rehabilitate them, according to Melrose Karminty, Minister of Social Welfare.