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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Drug, tobacco abuse: Shall we ever learn?

7th February 2012
Editorial cartoon

Considering the pivotal role sound health plays in human development, and therefore for very obvious reasons, one can only stop harping on the need to safeguard and promote this crucial agent of change at serious peril.

All manner of national, regional, continental and global agents endlessly preach the advantages of ensuring sound physical, mental and spiritual health for all.

Too bad, it is not always that such sermons are taken so seriously as to sow seeds in fertile soils that eventually germinate and grow into conditions that guarantee countries and nations high enough levels of good health.

For instance, the likes of the World Health Organisations have on countless occasions underlined the virtues of refraining from alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, yet what the world is witness has little to show that the message ever really sinks in.

A little over two decades ago, WHO sent out two simultaneous message – one stressing the wisdom of saying ‘YES’ to life and ‘NO’ to drugs and the other imploring humankind to prefer health to tobacco.

Both messages were balanced to perfection, if you are to pardon the hyperbole, in that the gist of the first was that drugs both heal and destroy and there is therefore a need to strike a balance between benefit and abuse. It warned that drug abuse creates dependence and, when diverted into illicit traffic, nightmarish public health and social problems.

To illustrate this a little, medical and other experts say cocaine use leads to high blood pressure, seizures, manic behaviour, crimes and eve death.

These facts are well known and well documented, yet millions upon millions of people across the globe are dependent on narcotics including cocaine, opium and heroine.

The experts look at drug abuse as essentially a public health problem that can degenerate into a crisis unless more is done to contain it than merely endeavouring to end trafficking through security operations and law enforcement.

One of the recommended ways of reining in the problem is ensuring that medics exercise extreme care in prescribing drugs, which would lead to the scaling down of supply.

It is noted, however, that decades of experience particularly in the world of medicine have shown that support from parents and community leaders is essential to the success of efforts meant to fight drug abuse. The problem, though, is that many people just don’t seem to see the need to join the crusade.

Much the same applies to the war on tobacco abuse, which some people wrongly believe is much less harmful and therefore much easier to tame than drug abuse.

WHO reports that millions of people dying each year from tobacco-induced diseases, among them lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and heart problems.

The UN agency wants people to appreciate the fact that what matters most is generally learning to live more positively rather than merely learning not to smoke.

So, much like drug abuse, tobacco abuse is a serious health and social crisis and must be addressed as such – and not as a problem where a series of warnings can stand as lasting solutions. It entails behaviour change – which all of us need to undergo. Trouble is, shall we?

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