A new report shows that drug and substance abuse is the primary risk factor for depressive disorders among users in Kenya.

The report released by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) shows that the risk of depressive disorder among multiple drug users is 2 times higher compared to the non-users.

It shows that substance use and mental health disorders are a growing challenge for addiction practitioners.

“Results show that past-month use of commonly used drugs and substances of abuse namely alcohol, tobacco, khat, cannabis, and prescription drugs were associated with depressive disorders,” the report released on Friday states.

To arrest the situation, the report underscores the need for the management of co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders as a standard practice in addiction treatment and rehabilitation.

According to the report, one in every 125 Kenyans who use drugs and substances aged between 15 – 65 years (209,582) had moderately severe depressive disorders.

This indicates that there were 209,582 Kenyans aged 15 to 65 who had severe depression disorders, whereas there were 4,096,209 Kenyans in the same age range who had mild depressive disorders.

The report further indicates that one in six Kenyans (4,733,152) aged between 15 and 65 is projected to abuse at least one drug or substance.

This means that one in every three males (3,783,854) aged 15 – 65 years and one in every sixteen females (949,298) were using at least one drug or substance.

The five-year survey reported the highest prevalence of at least one drug or substance of abuse in Western region at 26.4 percent followed by Eastern 20.7 per cent and Nairobi 19.1 per cent.

In regard to alcohol abuse, one in every eight Kenyans aged 15 – 65 years (3,199,119) are said to be alcoholic with the Western region having the highest prevalence at 23.8 per cent followed by Coast (13.9 per cent) and Central (12.8 per cent).

Nairobi region had the highest prevalence of manufactured legal alcohol (10.3 per cent) followed by Central (10.0 per cent) and Eastern 8.4 per cent.

Central region had the highest prevalence of potable spirits (4.1 per cent) followed by Coast (3.2 per cent) and Rift Valley (3.1 per cent).

Commenting on the findings, Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo said the statistics on drug and substance abuse are truly alarming and deeply concerning.

“When I first went through the 2022 Drug Use Report, it hit me that we were staring at a crisis of epic proportions. The fact that more than 4 million people used drugs in the country in 2022 was truly staggering, that is 1 in every 10 people,” PS Omollo said.

On his part NACADA CEO Victor Okioma said the revelations from the survey are worrying singling out the drop in the age of initiation to as low as 6 yrs.

He pointed out that all the stakeholders need to work together to identify the root causes of drug and substance abuse and come up with sustainable solutions.

“If you look between ages 25-35, the people we expect to be working, the preference for alcohol is 14 per cent. What we are seeing is the younger population are consuming drugs more than the older generation,” he said.

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