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Kush, the ‘sleeping drug’ slowly killing Sierra Leonean youth

In recent years, the youth of Sierra Leone have taken to the use of synthetic marijuana/drug called “Kush.” It is popularly known to be a variant of marijuana (weed), which a lot of young folks smoke nowadays to, as they say, make them feel good. 

Research conducted by the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), described Kush as a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol mixture of plant material sprayed with synthetic psychoactive chemicals similar to the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana/weed.

The Urban Dictionary also describes Kush as a strain of Cannabis that is almost solely of the Indica variety. It states further that Kush is a sweet-smelling plant part of the Cannabis-Indica family that makes the plant short and squat in appearance.

The drug comes in different colours and textures. According to research, most Kush drugs have some purple colouration and very dense buds. Kush is part of the Cannabis Genius indica family. The following are some of the various types of Kush — Afghan Kush, Hindu Kush, Green Kush; Purple Kush, OG Kush and Bubba Kush – which are classified as the popular Kush strains of the Cannabis-indica drug family.

Kush looks a bit different from marijuana, and according to consumers, its reaction on them is quite different from the reaction they get after smoking marijuana. 

The Kush variant of marijuana is also renowned for its heavy sedative effects on its users.

The drug has numerous “street names.” However, some call it: Bliss, Black Mamba, Blaze, Bombay Blue, Fake Weed, Legal Weed, Genie, Zohai, etc. Of all these street names, two of them stand out — “Spice” and “K2.” 

Research shows that Kush is grown in the mountainous regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and some parts of India, and this drug exists in many different forms. 

OG Kush.  Source: Wikipedia Pictures

Also, Kush drug has different Hybrid strains, all coming from the C-genius-indica; the different strains include – Blueberry Kush and Golden Jamaican Kush

Research shows that all Kush strains trace their roots back to the Kush Mountain range in India, hence their name. 

Scene of youth smoking Kush.

The arrival of Kush in Sierra Leone

“Kush” is one of the popular substances (drugs) that have recently arrived in Sierra Leone. This drug certainly came to the spotlight sometime around 2020/2021. Other sources say that the drug arrived much earlier but was not in widespread circulation.

A picture of a young man who repairs bike tyres.

Why do youths smoke Kush, and how does it affect them?

Even though Kush is a drug labelled as “not meant for human consumption,” humans, particularly young folks, have made food and water out of the drug with dire repercussions. They see it as a temporary solution to their economic challenges.

Youths, who are frequent users of dangerous drugs, like, cocaine, marijuana, have resolved to take Kush for their gratification, as stated by one of the users of Kush I spoke to.

“When I smoke Kush, it gives me strength and courage to do my sex work. Frankly, I am not happy to smoke Kush, but it is the only thing that gives me the power, strength, and courage to do my sex job,” Kadiatu Lahai (not her real name), a commercial sex worker, disclosed to DUBAWA. 

With that strength, she can have sex with ten or more men, she added.

A young lady who is a Kush addict.

Mohamed Koroma and Alfred Sesay (not their real names) also indicated that they smoke Kush to feel good and get the strength and power to carry out their daily activities.

Koroma and Sesay started smoking Kush as a result of peer influence. 

“The first time I smoked Kush, I felt my right foot was missing. I started accusing my friends of losing my right foot, not knowing that my feet were intact. It is interesting, though, laughs! My friends laughed about it but ensured that I remained seated until the friction left me.

“Kush is a bad drug which can make someone get seriously embarrassed. But, now, my system has gotten used to the drug and it hardly affects me like the way it did to me the first time I took it,” Koroma said.

When asked if they’re aware of the adverse effects of Kush on their health, Koroma said that he is not. On the other hand, Sesay told DUBAWA that he is aware of the negative impacts of Kush, more so to those who smoke it frequently, adding that he wants to stop taking Kush, but it seems challenging for him. 

The difficulty, according to him, is that Kush is the only thing that makes him forget his worries and feel good

A young man in a gutter after smoking Kush.

How dangerous is Kush to those who frequently smoke it?

DUBAWA spoke to  Abdul Aziz Suma — a medical doctor working at the country’s leading health centre — Connaught Hospital in Freetown. He stated that there are a lot of negative effects on the systems of those who smoke it, more so on those who are persistent smokers of the drug.

He said that, in Sierra Leone, Kush is normally laced with formalin (a substance used mainly in the mortuary to preserve dead bodies). So, mixing Kush and formalin makes the drug even worse for consumption by the living. 

“Kush is a synthetic drug/marijuana that causes severe respiratory system [defects], which leads to dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, acting abnormally etc. And, in Sierra Leone, for instance, people who process it normally add formalin to it and that is more dangerous to the systems of those who smoke it,” he indicated.

Packets of Kush intercepted by the police.

Is Kush legal or illegal in Sierra Leone?

I asked the Head of Communications for the Sierra Leone Police — Superintendent Brima Kamara, who asserted that Kush is an ‘illegal drug’; adding that the drug seriously affects young folks who take it because it is produced with the combination of strong and hard chemicals that affect the human brain.

He added that the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) Force had conducted several raids to clamp down on peddlers of these hard drugs, like, tramadol, molly and kush in the country.

He, however, disclosed that despite their robust efforts, there is little success in clamping down on the activities of the peddlers. He admitted that the peddlers of these drugs are on the increase.  

When asked for the statistics of drug peddlers in the police net — Superintendent Kamara noted that he couldn’t give an accurate number of people who have been arrested or are in police custody for peddling Kush. 

However, he disclosed that dozens of young men, including women, have been arrested and charged for possession of “illegal drugs.

Scene of Kush transaction in Freetown.

What did Kush Peddlers have to say?

While speaking to DUBAWA, Foday Sesay (not his real name, aka ‘Father’) — a drug peddler in Freetown; said that he is into the Kush business as a means of survival. He added that the police usually raid the area where they sell Kush, but they have now gotten used to the raids and even the raiders (police).

He disclosed that youths who smoke Kush are always weak, lazy, and unproductive. Noting further that the hard nature of the drug causes those who smoke it to act abnormally and even sleep against their will until it leaves their systems. 

He added that it is rare to see an individual who smokes Kush do something productive when the Kush’s friction is in their head. 

“Most of the youth who smoke Kush will not be able to engage in anything productive until the drug leaves their systems,” another peddler indicated.

A peddler in the Western part of Freetown stated that the police had arrested her and other peddlers on several occasions for peddling Kush and other hard drugs.

She said, “Many of us, the peddlers, have become friends with them (police), and that is the only thing saving us from the numerous raids.”

She added that Kush, unlike, marijuana (weed) and tramadol tablets, consumes a lot of money, stating that Kush is sold at 5Nles ($0.29), 7Nles ($0.41) and 10Nles ($0.58) in some places.

She indicated that Kush, unlike regular weed and tramadol, has a short-lived friction or effect on those who smoke it. 

“As recently as Tuesday, October 19, 2022, — the SLP conducted a raid on us and took away drugs worth over millions of leones and hard cash of over 15 million leones,” a peddler told DUBAWA.

Another peddler (nicknamed: A – Plus) disclosed that people who sell Kush usually get a 100 percent profit on every business they transact.

What do youths who don’t smoke Kush think about it?

Alpha Bah, a student at Fourah Bay College (FBC), University of Sierra Leone (USL), informed DUBAWA that “Kush has disgraced dozens of young guys. It is obvious that some students also smoke Kush for only God knows why they smoke it. However, some say that the drug aids them to be able to study for a long time.”

He suggested that; “cold water can help to reduce or kill the power of Kush in the system because I experienced a situation where cold water was used to kill the power of Kush in a friend, and that helped him to feel better.” 

Can chilled water help to kill the power of Kush in the system? 

Dr Suma noted, “I have heard some youths who smoke Kush saying that cold water helps to cool down the power of the drug in the head. However, I will have to research as a medical doctor to know if chilled water can kill or reduce the power of Kush in the system.”

When asked if addicted Kush smokers have a way out of their addiction, Dr Suma said that people whose systems are addicted to Kush could be cleansed, adding that flushing the entire system of drug addicts can help to revive their systems.

A youth activist perspective of Kush

DUBAWA also spoke to Thomas P. Babadie, the Executive Director (ED) for the Forum for Sierra Leonean Youths Network (FoSLYN) in Freetown — (a non-profit organisation that seeks the interests & welfare of youths in the country).

He told this medium that dozens of youth in the country are seriously involved in drugs and alcoholism due to their numerous challenges. 

He noted, according to his investigation as the ED for a viable youth organisation in the country, “unemployment” and “depression” are the two primary reasons why a lot of young people are into ill practices, like drugs and alcoholism. He further said they are the country’s two major causes of the ‘mental health’ challenge.

“My brother, a lot of youths, men and women inclusive, are going through a lot, and that is what is leading them into taking hard drugs, which is seriously affecting them. 

For instance, unemployment is killing our youth, and the government and other organisations have to do something about it, and it should be done quickly,” Babadie indicated. He called on young folks to desist from hard drugs because they would only harm them and make them unproductive.

Conclusion

Kush has led dozens of youths to injure themselves, with others losing their lives on account of using the banned substance. It is evident that law enforcement agencies and other bodies have clamped down on importers and peddlers of the drug, but those efforts have yielded little success.

It is, however, clear that humans consuming Kush drug are at high risk of acting abnormally and even dying from the banned substance. There is need for more research on the factors leading to the use of the drug on users of Kush and on effective interventions on social and psychological effects of the availability of this dangerous drug in Sierra Leone.

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