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KUSH: A Potential Threat to Sierra Leone’s Human Capital Development Effort

Although the extent may be unknown, there is undeniable evidence of an unprecedented surge in the proliferation and consumption of a wide variety of harmful and addictive substances in Sierra Leone. In recent years, Kush has emerged as the most prevalent of these substances.

If this trend of illicit drug-related activities in Sierra Leone is not immediately intercepted, it stands a chance to undermine the long-term impact of the country’s human capital development effort.

The substance in question has gained significant recognition and popularity among households in Sierra Leone. It is a subject of national concern and, therefore, frequently discussed in almost every community across the country. There are even conjectures about these substances' potential trading or consumption within these communities.

While the public demonstrates a lack of adequate knowledge about the origin and chemical composition of the substance, its harmful effects on users, who are often young people, are not in question. There are video recordings, photographs, and eyewitness accounts of individuals engaging in extremely bizarre behaviours, which are purported to be influenced by Kush.

These behaviours typically consist of repeated banging of heads against hard surfaces and a sudden freeze into deep sleep anywhere and in any position, often nodding until the head hits the ground. Additionally, people who use Kush are often seen with severe wounds on their legs.

This development has elicited significant national apprehension largely because it has ravaged the health and well-being of the country's young population and now poses a serious national security and safety threat. Obviously, it is a hostile climate for the survival of any human capital development initiative.

Reckless driving and regular fatal road accidents, especially in the capital, account largely for this insecurity and lack of safety as compared to the incidences of youth violence and crimes such as sexual abuse, robbery, and murder that are often attributed to drug (Kush) use. This conclusion is traceable to the widely held belief that drug addiction is widespread among the young males who operate the country's trike and motorbike-dominated public transportation system, many of whom are likely school dropouts or former combatants.

Notwithstanding the severity of this problem, a resounding public cry for government intervention seems to have fallen on apathetic ears. This has resulted in pockets of community-driven Kush eradication campaigns across the country. This may be a good idea, but it risks aggravating the current drug problem by naming, shaming, and violating the human rights of those who use drugs.

A more successful approach to addressing Sierra Leone’s drug problem must begin with a perception shift that people who use drugs are not the problem but rather mere victims of punitive drug policies and the drug trade who need support to overcome their drug use problems and not condemnation.

Hence, it is imperative for the relevant authorities to undertake the necessary measures to effectively tackle the prevailing Kush epidemic. This will guarantee the required expertise and resources to sustain the success of the intervention. The government must act now.



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