Guest Speakers Prof Abdul Kadr Hajj Mohammed (2nd right), Prof Mustafa al’Absi (3rd left) and Prof Laila Abubakar-the Vice Chancellor for the Technical University of Mombasa (3rd right) pose in a group photo with delegates during the 1st Substance Use and Drug Related Disorders 2023 Conference at Prof Ali Mazrui Tourism and Hospitality Centre
Young people who abuse drugs face real social biological risks including sadness, hormonal imbalance, brain damage, and ruined libido, visiting scientists have warned.
They are therefore advising young people to shun drug abuse and beware of its long-term consequences.
The scholars drawn from the University of Linnaeus in Sweden, the University of Minnesota in the USA, and the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) accompanied by health experts from the Mombasa County Government, Mewa Hospital, and Reach Out Center Mombasa unanimously urged the youth to avoid the pitfalls of drug abuse to excel in their lives.
Guest speaker Emeritus Prof Abdul Kadr Hajj Mohammed from Linnaeus University Sweden disclosed that research has shown that Khat (miraa) contributes to low libido and mental health complications.
Prof Abdikadir revealed that research has proved that Khat reduces testosterone levels among men and also causes low sperm count.
Prof Abdikadir said although khat has been used by track drivers in Mombasa and other parts of the country to keep them awake at night while driving, science has proved that the consequences are dire.
Abdikar is a senior professor of Biological Psychology. He has published more than 100 research papers in international scientific Journals.
Taibu Abdulrahman from the Mombasa reach-out center said many young people are using Mogokaa because it is cheaper compared to khat (miraa).
“One Kilogram of miraa retails at approximately Ksh 5,000 while with Ksh 50 one can have a sachet of mogokaa,” Taib said
Prof Addikadir has urged Kenyan authorities to work closely with health institutions to curb the problem.
To add on, Prof Mustafa al’Absi from the University of Minnesota in the United States of America said mental health was on the rise among young people in Kenya and its high time they should shun drug abuse.
“There is a hormone called dopamine which is responsible for happiness. When you use drugs, the hormone is produced in large quantities and the person feels happy and comfortable, but that damages brain cells, which contributes to mental illness,” Prof Musatafa said.
Prof Mustafa added that despite that one-time consumption of the drugs does not affect human body but there is need to curb the use of such substances.
However, Prof Mustafa said more research on drug and substance use and disorders are ongoing to save the young population especially in urban centers and in higher learning institutions.
‘’We are dedicated as researchers to reveal the deadly scenes associated with drug usage mainly to save the young generation.’’Prof Mustafa said.
Prof Mustafa al Absi is a Professor of Behavioral Medicine and the holder of the Max & Mary La Due Pickworth Chair at University of Minnesota Medical School.
He is the founding director of the Duluth Medical Research Institute (DMRI), the Behavioral Medicine Laboratories, and the Khat Research Program (KRP).
He directs research programs focusing on neurobiology of stress, appetite regulation, and addiction.
On her part, Vice Chancellor Prof Laila Abubakar said Mombasa City has been severely affected by drugs, which has contributed to the rise of insecurity in the city.
The VC urged the parents to be vigilant because once the young people start using cocaine and heroin, they soon resort to stealing and selling even utensils at home to buy drugs.
‘’Parents should know that these young people enter into drug consumption by taking soft drugs such as Mogokaa before graduating to heroin and cocaine. So, every step in this process leads to serious drug usage.’’Prof Laila said.
A senior Health Officer in Mombasa County Mr. Abdallah Mohammed Mwakazi said a medical report released in 2020 showed that 25 percent of outpatient people who visited several hospitals in Mombasa County had mental health disorders which translates to 1 out 4.
The two-day conference was an eye-opener for researchers, academicians, and government officials to have a conversation on how to deal with the drug menace among the youth.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academics Research and Extension Prof Peter Gichangi, who joined the conference online said the conference had come at the right time because Mombasa city is largely affected by the drugs.
The theme of the conference was ‘’Strengthening substance use research and evidence-based interventions”.
Some of the key partners in the conference were Bomu Hospital, Madison Insurance, Absa Bank, Equity Bank, AMECA, and International Society of Substance Use Prevention (ISSUP) Kenya chapter.
According to the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) drugs such as heroin, cocaine, local brew (chang'aa), bhang, kuber, and mandrax, or licit (legal) such as alcohol (beer, wines & spirits), tobacco, and khat (miraa) are the most used drugs in the country.