Drugs and Substance Abuse


A substance is considered abused if it is deliberately used to induce physiological or psychological effects or both, for the purposes other than therapeutic ones, and when its use contributes to health risks, the disruption of psychological functioning, adverse social consequences or a combination of them.

A drug can be defined as a substance, which may be chemical, synthetic or natural, which when taken in by a living organism may modify or affect one or more of its functions

Drug misuse is considered to be the misuse of medicine and incorrect use of drugs or medicines with the intention of causing body changes. It can also be said to be taking of medicine/drugs without the doctor’s prescription

Commonly Abused Drugs and Substances

The most commonly abused substances are alcohol and tobacco. They are in fact termed as gateway substances to other drugs.


Alcohol includes wine, spirits, beer, “busaa”, “muratina”, “mnazi”, “changaa” and others such as “kumi kumi” “machozi” etc). Alcohol is considered a depressant which slows and lowers the functions of the brain, e.g. thinking, concentration, and recognition, making decisions and initiating reasoned actions. The effect of alcohol on the brain make people feel relaxed, stop worrying about what other people think of them, and have a good time.

The initial effect of alcohol makes one feel stimulated, become talkative and more active. As some continue taking more alcohol, mood and social behavior changes, some people become depressed and remorseful; others become belligerent (become abusive or violent)

Depressive drunks may slow down, stumble, loudly confess their sins and failures and slur in words. The Amoral drunks may pick up quarrels and fights and other reckless behaviors. When they fall asleep they wake up with a hangover which includes fatigue, headache and nausea. They may also feel restlessness during the day and this can affect their productivity


Tobacco contains 4,000 different chemicals many of which are harmful. Nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar are the three main chemicals that affect the human body and cause diseases. Tobacco can be smoked, snorted or chewed

Effects of Tobacco

The tar in the cigarette is deposited in the lungs causing lung damage and even lung cancer. Carbon monoxide present in cigarettes also affects the chemical activity of the heart, which encourages deposits on the walls of the arteries leading to blockage that may cause blood circulation problems.

For pregnant women this reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the baby during pregnancy. Smoking can also cause spontaneous abortion and other complications during pregnancy, low birth weight babies and stillbirths as well as prenatal mortality in women

Smoking also leads to increased incidences of severe coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath on exertion. Peptic ulcers in the stomach and duodenum, cancer of the mouth, nose, throat, esophagus, pancreas, bladder, cervix and leukemia are other diseases caused by smoking

Economically, although smoking contributes to a country’s revenue, it eats into the family budget. It is also very costly in the treatment of diseases associated with smoking

Cannabis Sativa

It is also known as Bang, Marijuana (street names – grass, weed, pot, jive, reeter, and ganja. This drug is rolled into cigarette and smoked; and can also be chewed. It can also be processed into more potent form known as hashish.

Effects of Marijuana

  • Problems with memory and learning
  • Trouble in thinking and problem solving
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased heartbeat, anxiety and panic attacks
  • Some people can make stupid mistakes at work place
  • It leads to unsafe sex and spread of HIV&AIDS
  • It can lead to cancer, respiratory problems, immune system and reproductive system problems
  • It may lead to use of other illicit drugs
  • It may lead to confusion and psychotic behavior


Health Risks

  • Nausea, vomiting, blackouts and heart problems that can be fatal
  • Squirting gas products down the throat may cause the body to produce fluid that floods the lungs and this can cause instant death
  • Risk of suffocation if the substances inhaled from a plastic bag over the head
  • Accidents can happen when the user is high because their senses are affected
  • Long term abuse of glue can damage the brain, liver, and kidneys

Effect of Glue

  • Users feel thick-headed, dizzy, giggly, and dreamy
  • Users may hallucinate
  • Effects do not last very long. But users can remain intoxicated all day by repeating the dose

Khat (Miraa) – is a stimulant

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