It Is Never Too Early To Teach Children About Alcohol and other Substance Abuse

It Is Never Too Early To Teach Children About Alcohol and other Substance Abuse

It Is Never Too Early To Teach Children About Alcohol and other Substance Abuse

By Odhiambo Donpaul

Blue cross Kenya

Alcohol and other substance abuse have increased in magnitude and threatens to undermine the social, economic, and political transformation achieved over the years in Kenya. Prevention and control of Alcohol and other substance are critical for national development and the realization of the Kenya Vision 2030. The national survey on the status of drugs and substance use in Kenya reported that children and youths aged 15 – 17 years had the highest level of spontaneous awareness of at least one alcohol product. Three in every four males had a spontaneous awareness of at least one alcohol product. The spontaneous awareness of at least one alcohol product was higher in rural areas at 77 percent compared to urban areas at 67 percent. The results further showed that the western region had the highest spontaneous awareness of at least one alcohol product (96.2%). Thirteen percent of the population aged 15 – 24 years reported lifetime use of alcohol. Males had a higher prevalence of lifetime use of alcohol (20.0%) compared to females (7.3%). Those in the urban areas had a higher prevalence of lifetime use of alcohol (19.8%) compared to those in the rural areas (9.2%). Results revealed that the prevalence of lifetime use of tobacco for the population aged 15 – 24 years was 7 percent. Males had a higher prevalence of lifetime use of tobacco (12.3%) compared to females (3.2%). The results further showed that those in the urban areas had a higher prevalence of lifetime use of tobacco (10.8%) compared to those in the rural areas (5.4%). The lifetime uses of cannabis for the population aged 15 – 24 years showed a 4 percent prevalence of lifetime use of cannabis. Males had a higher prevalence of lifetime use of cannabis (8.0%) compared to females (1.1%). The prevalence of lifetime use of cannabis was higher in the urban areas (7.8%) compared to the rural areas (2.4%). Of greater concern, is that the prevalence of lifetime abstainers to drugs and substance use for the population aged 15 – 65 years in the country is only at 43 percent and with increased demand and less supply suppression of Alcohol and other substances this percentage may hit lower levels. Females had a higher prevalence of lifetime abstainers of drugs and substance use (50.8%) compared to males (32.7%). The prevalence for those in rural areas was higher (46.6%) than those in urban areas (35.4%). Perceptions of the population on the different aspects of enforcement showed that there were serious problems regarding the production, sale, and consumption of illicit brews; the sale of alcohol to underage children; and an increase in the number of liquors selling outlets across the country. The challenge of illicit brews was higher in the Western and Nyanza regions. This corroborates the evidence of the increased prevalence of traditional liquor and chang’aa where Eighty-six percent of the population in the Western region and 82 percent in the Nyanza region perceived consumption of illicit brews to be widespread in their community. Further, the results explained the growing demand for cheaper and more readily available alcoholic drink alternatives.

Blue Cross Kenya engages children and youth in alcohol and substance Use prevention project with a focus on how children are empowered to act as change agents for local communities free from alcohol and other substance abuse related harms, how they take positive healthy choices for their lives and how organizations can run and expand quality children and youth substance prevention activities. Blue cross engages children on life skills sessions. Life skills are important since children and adults may use alcohol as a way to cope with failure and anxiety or a way to ‘fit in’ and to be popular or because is a cultural and social norm, “everyone does it “. Life skills are needed for children, youths and caregivers to navigate their lives. Blue cross also engage children in arts and digital classes. Arts provide a platform for self-reflection and personal growth, enabling children to understand the impact of alcohol on individuals and society. Additionally, digital skills equip children with practical abilities that foster innovation and critical thinking. By channeling their energy into these creative activities, children gain a sense of purpose and accomplishment, diverting their attention away from alcohol-related temptations and equip them with valuable life skills, fostering informed decision-making and healthy lifestyles.

In conclusion, Alcohol and other substance abuse is a complex issue that affects millions of people worldwide and many addicts face stigma and discrimination, which further harm their physical and mental health and prevent them from accessing the help they need in the society. It is therefore important to recognize the importance of taking a people-centered approach to drug policies, with a focus on human rights, compassion, and evidence-based practices. It is of great concern to note the need for:

  • NACADA to collaborate with the Ministry of Education to upscale prevention programs and the roll-out of a tailored life skills program aimed at sustaining abstinence or delaying initiation to drugs and substance use by children and students in primary and secondary schools in Kenya
  • Enhanced collaboration between the national and county governments to scale up joint enforcement efforts to control the production, distribution, sale, and consumption of illicit brews
  • County governments to review the licensing regime and incorporate public participation to regulate the increased proliferation of liquor-selling outlets in the counties
  • NACADA in collaboration with the FBOs to scale up “positive parenting” and “strengthening families” programs to moderate risks of early exposure to DSA by children and young adolescents
  • NACADA to leverage on the social media and other online platforms to reach the youth with tailored prevention programs and regular factual messaging to counter myths, misinformation, and misconceptions related to alcohol, drugs, and substances of abuse
  • Deliberate measures to be put in place to address the myths, misinformation, and misconceptions of alcohol and other substance use among the youth
  • Security committees at national, regional, and county levels to coordinate sustainable and effective approaches to control the trafficking of narcotic drugs
  • NACADA and the Ministry for Youth Affairs, Sports and the Arts to identify opportunities for youth engagement to facilitate implementation of tailored drugs and substance use prevention programs for youth out of school
  • NACADA to collaborate with MoH, County Governments, CSOs, NGOs, FBOs, and other partners to expand addiction treatment services with an emphasis on a community-based model anchored through out-patient services to address the challenges of affordability and physical access
  • NACADA to propose amendments to the ADCA 2010 and the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, 1994 to address the emerging supply suppression challenges including regulation of online sale and marketing of alcoholic drinks, drugs, and other substances of abuse.

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