A new study has found alcohol to be the commonest substance of
abuse used in Kampala followed by cannabis that is mostly abused by women.
According to the study, 41 percent of the females in rehabilitation centers confessed using cannabis.
In the study in which researchers at the Makerere University School of Public
Health also sought to establish the country’s first epidemiological alcohol and
drug abuse surveillance system, they found that the rehabilitation centers are
mostly attended by youth below 30 years of age who have attained education.
Dr Nazarius Mbona Tumwesigye, the lead researcher said 84 percent of all the clients
attending rehabilitation at the 10 facilities sampled have at least attained
secondary level education.
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Data of all attendees in the 10 facilities including Butabika
National Mental Referral Hospital, Serenity Center and Harm Reduction Center
was analyzed between November 2019 and June whereby in addition to inquiring
into each client’s substance of abuse, the researchers also checked their HIV
and Hepatitis C status.
10 percent of the attendees are living with HIV and 13.1 percent had tested for
Mbona also said that majority of the attendees confessed getting
the drugs from street dealers who account for 51 percent followed by friends at
Overall, the majority of the drugs were used daily with 91% of respondents
saying they used drugs every day.
Speaking at the launch of the findings on Tuesday evening, Prof Noah Kiwanuka,
the head of the Department Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Makerere
University urged the government to put in place interventions that limit access
to drugs, warning that exposure to drugs by young adults puts the future of the
country at threat.
According to Kiwanuka, although a comprehensive study has not yet been done to
show the countrywide burden of drug abuse, anecdotal data shows it’s only a few
families that have not had a case of drug abuse saying several people are
abusing them in secrecy.
Dr Hafsa Lukwata who heads the mental health and substance abuse division in
the Ministry of Health said the government has already noticed the problem of
abuse and this data helps redirect them on what needs to be urgently tackled.
On alcohol abuse she says, the cabinet has just passed an alcohol
control policy in which they have limited access to those aged 21 and above.
She also says that the policy proposes not to serve alcohol during government
ceremonies in addition to making it punishable to drink in the open say on
However, on the increased use of cannabis which the study shows peaking in
April, Lukwata was asked whether the move by the government to allow growing
will not increase the problem and she said they are planning to start licensing
growers but under very strict guidelines.
Among the study participants, they reported drug abuse to have impacted the
life whereby 30 percent report being ever arrested, 24 percent dropped out of
school whereas 28 percent lost their jobs.
Most of them report having started to use drugs due to financial
strain at 37 percent, 34 percent reported having family issues, 27 percent work
issues and 29 percent reported sexual relationship challenges.