In his statement, while addressing the issue of Kush, the Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr. Austin Demby has said victims of Kush smoking should not be blamed or arrested but should be encouraged to get out of it.

Kush victims are not to be blamed,” the Minister said during the weekly press conference of the Ministry of Information and Civic Education on Tuesday 22nd August 2023.

The Minister spoke on the health hazards of Kush, and reiterated that victimizing or punishing Kush victims is like a double punishment on them.

He went further and condemned those processing and selling the Kush, adding that they should be the ones to be arrested.

Raising awareness over the dangers of kush, the Health Minister explained that he had gotten to understand that one of the chemicals used in the process of kush is formalin, a dangerous chemical used to embalm dead bodies.

He emphasized the dangers of that chemical and assured that measures were in place to firmly secure the chemical and prevent its access to unauthorized persons.

Strategizing remediable measures on the issue of Kush, the Health Minister expressed that health encompasses everybody. He said the issue of Kush is a societal problem and all sectors of the society should come together and tackle it from all facets.

“It requires the active participation of Social Welfare, Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the Security Sector, families and parents, Schools, and teachers in effectively addressing the issue of Kush”.

The Minister strongly admonished that Kush should not be tried or tasted as it also has a dangerous effect on the brain. Dr. Demby added that whether the issue of Kush should be declared as a public health emergency consultations with the relevant stakeholders would have to be made on that.

Senior Psychiatrist Specialist at Global Mental Health Dr. Abdul Jalloh affirmed that kush is locally made in Sierra Leone although few are imported. He said there are three types of kush which are Synthetic Kush – natural one, Tramadol Kush – made with Tramadol and other mixtures and Jagaban Kush – made with formalin and ordinary leaves.

While highlighting the different types of Kush, Dr. Jalloh emphasized the dangers of Kush saying it could lead to mental disorders as it affects the function of the brain. He added that it could lead to damage of the heart, kidney, and liver causing swelling of the feet and other body parts.

He further read out data they collect every six months on the cases of drug misuse in his hospital.

“2,800 cases of drug misuse which made up 60 percent of the cases in the hospital were detected from 2020 to 2022. There is a huge rise in the substance, from 2 percent in 2020 to 40 percent in 2022. 30 percent from tramadol, 63 percent from Kush,” Dr. Jalloh statistically stated.

He added that one-third of that population were unemployed, 20 percent employed, 60 percent were secondary school students and 11 percent were university students. He added that addressing the issue of Kush requires the collective efforts of everybody in the society and that the victims should not be stigmatized.

Matilda Ekan Sonsiama, a Civil Society Activist intimated that the issue of Kush should not be looked at with gender lenses as she said it affects both male and female youths. She admitted that women are the highest Kush sellers in the country. Sonsiama explained instances of Kush incidents where two Kush Sellers were arrested and in a few days she saw them again in that community selling it.

She said from her visits to several ghettos, Kush victims cut across different classes of people even the degree holders. She explained the sad situation of one of her colleagues, a degree holder, whom she said was almost mad due to Kush addiction. Upon interrogating her, Matilda explained that her addiction to Kush was due to her inability to secure a job after graduation. She strongly admonished the youths, especially the female who could face other disadvantages to stay off from Kush.