Poison of choice


Every evening in most parts of the country, the young, the not so young and the old flock the so call veve bases to indulge in a poison of their choice, Miraa (Khat), which they chew almost all night as they share stories and hallucinate.

Miraa is a leave stimulant. It contains a chemical element known as cathinone, which is psychoactive and causes lack of sleep, brain confusion, mental breakdown and psychosis.

Miraa has long-term effects that are physical, social, emotional and mental. It leads to bad breath, discolored teeth and in some extreme cases; miraa chewers lose their teeth. It also causes oral inflammation and when overused it has been known to cause oral cancer.

Other psychological effects of Miraa include insomnia, paranoia, depression, anxiety and irritation. After long-term use, miraa chewers are also likely to experience maniac behaviors. Some experience hyperactivity; they begin talking excessively and show excessive aggressiveness. Others experience malaise (loss of energy); they become excessively alert and may suffer high blood pressure.

Miraa is an extremely dangerous stimulant. It also causes severe constipation. Recently a group of researchers have established an association between liver disease in sub-Saharan Africa and the practice of chewing khat.

The research revealed that there is a clear solid link to chewing miraa and liver failure especially to men from Ethiopia, which is one of the nations in the Sub Saharan region that has the highest miraa users. Half of the youth in the country are already addicted, which has has forced the country to term miraa chewing an epidemic.

Miraa has also been known to cause low sperm count and low sex drive among men.  Just recently women from Embu County protested against the bad sex from their miraa-chewing partners and called on the Government to ban the stimulant that has made their partners impotent. Tragically, the women complained, their schooling sons have also been addicted to the drug. To sustain the addiction, the women decried, their boys have resorted to thievery. Miraa chewing, they bemoaned, has only brought them insecurity and immorality, accusing miraa selling bases of selling other harmful drugs and also acting as hideouts for criminal gangs.

There are some students who have dropped out of school to open their own miraa selling joints. Others sneak miraa into schools which has led to poor concentration and memory interference. The parents also said that their sons have also been led into the gambling life because of these miraa joints. Most people in the miraa bases are registered with more than one betting companies operating in Kenya.

Cries to have miraa proscribed in Kenya have fallen on deaf ears. Nacada’s (National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drugs) attempts to ban miraa in 2018 were met with concerted resistance. Elsewhere, especially in former large miraa markets of the world, efforts are being put in place to protect masses from effects of khat. In the UK, for instance, miraa was listed as a class C drug in 2014, hugely disrupting the market there, as one would henceforth need a Home Office license to export to the UK. Somalia now heavily taxes the drug in a bid to control the volumes getting into their country

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