Alcohol is a drink that has been taken and abused time immemorial by the
society under different circumstances and reasons. We have often heard that
alcohol has found it's way into school. In chemical terminology, alcohols
are a large group of organic compounds derived from hydrocarbons and
containing one or more hydroxyl group. Ethanol, C2H5OH, being the most common.
Alcohol come in forms like :
1. Those prepared by fermentation i.e. traditional beers, (Busaa, Mnazi,
Muratina etc including the bottled beer. Some students have been reported to
take alcohol in school during class breaks. 2. Those are prepared by
distillation, i.e. wines and spirits (Chang'aa, whisky, vodka, rum, etc)
3. Other non-beverage forms e.g. Methanol Propanol, Butanol and the list is long..
Effects of alcoholic beverages
e.g. Ethanol Alcohol is “physical dependence”
producing and tolerance is developed at high level of usage. Evidence suggests
that alcohol-dependence has hereditary trait. Studies have shown that children
of problem drinkers have difficulties with alcohol in their adult lives a
reason why some of them carry the alcohol to school.
Medical Problems Associated with Alcoholism. The medical problems have been
classified as a consequence of either acute episodes of drinking or prolonged
drinking. Acute episode of drinking, bring about short term impairment and loss
of control in the individual and may lead to violence, physical disorder, peptic
ulcers, poor concentration and defective memory.
Bitta and Acuda in their study on alcohol and gastritis at Kenyatta National
Hospital, found that 26% of the 50 cases of alcoholic gastritis studied were
acutely intoxicated on admission and, 16% were admitted in hypoglycemic coma,
10% had delirium, 6% liver disorder and 8% had other complications such as
neuropathy, brain damage and attempted suicide.Prolonged use and abuse of alcohol can produce organic changes that manifest in physical and psychological symptoms e.g. liver and brain cell death, heart disease. Pupils who engage in taking alcohol in school fail to concentrate in class work.
Other medical problems associated with alcoholism are sexual dysfunction in
both male and females, such as impotence in male, and low sexual libido in
female. The ‘alothe syndrome’ or infidelity jealousy is becoming increasingly
common as couples accuse their spouses of infidelity. This condition has been
associated with chronic heavy drinking.
BHANG The plant Cannabis sativa is the source of both Bhang, hashish and hashish
oil. The leaves, flowers, and twigs of the plant are crushed to produce marijuana;
its concentrated resin is hashish while an extract of hashish using vegetable
oil gives hashish oil.
The active ingredient in Bhang is a compound called delta-9-tetrahydro-annabinol
which in Bhang has been found to have high affinity for the fatty structures
hence in addition to the brain, Bhang has been found to affect the liver, the
respiratory, reproductive, and blood cell systems.
Bhang use causes: a state of relaxation, accelerated heart beat rate, perceived
slowing of time, and a sense of heightened hearing, taste, touch, and smell.
These effects vary depending on the amount of drug consumed and the circumstances
under which it is taken. Bhang and hashish are not thought to produce
psychological dependence except when taken in large daily doses. The drug can be
dangerous, however, especially when smoked before an activity requiring
concentration like driving. Although chronic effects are not yet clear,
Bhang is injurious to the lungs in much the same way as tobacco. Intoxication
markedly alters thinking and interferes with learning, it may also interfere
with psychological, and possibly physical, maturation. Bhang also affects the
perception of time, distance, and speed. It upsets coordination, causing
unsteady hands, a change in gait, uncontrolled laughter, and a lag between
thought and facial expressions. Sexual functions are disturbed.
One may suffer illusions and hallucinations, difficulty in recalling events
in the immediate past, slowed thinking and narrowed attention span,
depersonalization, euphoria, depression, drowsiness, lack of sleep, difficulty
in making accurate self-evaluation, a lowering of inhibition, loss of judgment,
mental and physical lethargy.
Heavy use over along period of time cause permanent changes in the brain.
It has been found, for instance, that the brains of young heavy users of
cannabis reduce in size. The loss in brain substance is comparable to that
normally found in people seventy to ninety years old. Progressive brain
damage may explain the psychic changes that occur after heavy long-term use.
Effects on the respiratory system: Individuals who smoke Bhang/hashish for
long periods show a tendency toward bronchitis. The lungs of Bhang users
are more blackened than those of tobacco smokers because, to get an effect,
cannabis smoke must be inhaled deeper and held longer in the lungs.
Effects on the hormonal system:- Studies have shown that testosterone, the
most potent of the male sex hormones, is depressed in the blood of Bhang users,
and reproductive function is inhibited. Sperm counts are lower and there is
a decrease in sperm motility and an increase in number of abnormal sperm.
Other effects: Serious damage to body cells which implies suppression of
immune response which then lead to countless number of secondary diseases.
• Bhang contains more than 400 chemicals, many of which are harmful
• Bhang smoke has more cancer-causing agents than cigarette smoke.
• The chemicals in Bhang smoke can remain in the body for up to a month.
• Bhang affects co-ordination and slows down thinking and reflexes.
• Bhang reduces people’s memory and affects comprehension.
• Bhang smokers often lose interest in schoolwork, sports, and other activities
• Smoking Bhang is particularly harmful for young growing bodies.
• Bhang is psychologically addictive.
As the name suggests, these are substances that generally decrease the activity
of the central nervous system. Thus, they cause depression, induce sleep
progressing to stupor and finally coma.
Barbiturates, benzodiazepines and other depressants cause disorientation,
slurred speech, and other behaviors associated with drunkenness.
The effects of an overdose of depressants range from shallow breathing,
clammy skin, dilated pupils, and weak and rapid pulse to coma and death.
CNS depressants can be divided mainly into two groups, based on their
chemistry and effects on the body systems: Barbiturates: such as phenobarbitone,
which is used to treat anxiety, tension, and sleep disorders. This class
is dangerous as small amounts of the drug can lead to death.
1. Benzodiazepines: such as diazepam (commonly known as ‘Roche 5’, which
can be prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic
attacks. 2. CNS depressants should not be used together with any medication
or substance that causes sleepiness, including prescription pain medicines,
certain over-the-counter cold and allergy medications, or alcohol
(beer, wine, liquor, chang’aa, busaa, mnazi, spirits etc).
A chemical substance that induces alteration in perception, thinking and
feeling which resemble those of functional psychoses without producing
the gross impairment of memory and orientation characteristic of the
Hallucinogens are not used medically in most countries except occasionally
in the treatment of dying patients, people with mental illness, drug abusers,
and alcoholics. Although tolerance to these drugs develops rapidly, no
withdrawal syndrome is apparent when they are discontinued.
Among the hallucinogens that were widely abused during the 1960s are
lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, which is derived from the peyote cactus.
LSD, produces detachment and euphoria, intensifies vision, and often leads
to a crossing of senses ie colours are “heard”, sounds are “seen”.
Phencyclidine, or PCP, known popularly by such names as “angel dust” and
“rocket fuel”, has no current use among human beings but is occasionally
used by veterinary surgeons as an anaesthetic and sedative for animals.
It became a common drug of abuse in the late 1970s, partly because it can
easily be synthesized. Its effects are quite different from those of other
PCP, produces a sense of detachment and a reduction in sensitivity to pain
it may also result in either triggering or producing symptoms like those of
acute schizophrenia that even professional confuse the two states. The
combination of this effect and indifference to pain has sometimes resulted
in bizarre thinking, occasionally marked by violently destructive behaviour.
In the class of inhalants are substances that are not usually considered
drugs, such as:
• Petroleum fluids ( gasoline, and kerosene)
• Paint thinners
• Cleaning fluids
• Dry Cleaning Fluids
• Alcohols (mainly methanol)
• Menthol containing products e.g. Vicks inhaler.
These are chemical vapors that produce psychoactive (mind-altering) effects. Although people are exposed to volatile solvents and other inhalants in the
home and in the workplace, many do not think of inhalable substances as
drugs because most of them were never meant to be used in that way.
Young people are likely to abuse inhalants, in part because inhalants
are readily available and affordable. Sometimes children unintentionally
misuse inhalants found in household products. Parents should see that these
substances are monitored closely so that they are not inhaled by young children.
Health Hazards Although different in makeup, nearly all abused inhalants
produce effects similar to anaesthetics, which act to slow down the body's
functions. When inhaled via the nose or mouth into the lungs in sufficient
concentrations, inhalants can cause intoxicating effects. Intoxication can
last only a few minutes or several hours if inhalants are taken repeatedly.
Initially, users may feel slightly stimulated; with successive inhalations,
they may feel less inhibited and less in control; finally, a user can lose
Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in
solvents or aerosol sprays can directly induce heart failure and death.
This is especially common from the abuse of fluorocarbons and butane-type gases.
High concentrations of inhalants also cause death from suffocation by displacing
oxygen in the lungs and then in the central nervous system so that
Other irreversible effects caused by inhaling specific solvents are as follows:
• Hearing loss - toluene (paint sprays, glues, wax removers) and
trichloroethylene- cleaning fluids, correction fluids
• Peripheral problems or limb spasms - hexane (glues, gasoline) and nitrous
oxide (whipping cream, gas cylinders) Central nervous system or brain
damage - toluene (paint sprays, glues, wax removers).
• Bone marrow damage - benzene (gasoline). Serious effects include:
Liver and kidney damage - toluene- containing substances and chlorinated
hydrocarbons (correction fluids, dry- cleaning fluids) Blood oxygen
depletion -and methylene chloride (varnish removers, paint thinners).
Death from inhalants is usually caused by a very high concentration of fumes.
Deliberately inhaling from an attached paper or plastic bag or in a closed area
greatly increases the chances of suffocation.
When using aerosols or volatile products for their legitimate purposes (i.e., painting, cleaning), it is wise to do so in a well-ventilated rooms or outdoors.
Initial use of inhalants often starts early in life. Some young people may
use inhalants as a cheap, accessible substitute for alcohol. Research suggests
that chronic or long-term inhalant abusers are among the most difficult to treat
and they may experience multiple psychological and social problems.
Many solvent and glue sniffers ( popularly known as chokora ) have died
suddenly from heart attack. It has now been established that solvents are
highly toxic when inhaled. Loss of appetite, anaemia, damage to brain and
peripheral nervous system, bone marrow, kidneys, blood vessels and liver
have been reported from the chronic user of solvents.
A habitual user of solvents may have a persistent cough from inflammation
of his respiratory tract. Certain inhalants (such as paint thinners, aeroplane
fuel, glue and nitrous oxide can choke the user or freeze the vocal cords.
TOBACCO AND TOBACCO PRODUCTS
Tobacco comes in many forms, cigarette being the most common. Tobacco can
be chewed or smoked in pipes. Snuff is powdered tobacco and can be smoked
or sniffed. It has been recognized that 90% of cigarette smoke is made up
of tiny poisonous gases or chemicals said to be 4000 in number. The chemical
substances can be classified into three broad categories:
2. Poisonous chemicals
3. Cancer causing and promoting agents
Included in the poisonous gases, are:
: This is the principal pharmacological agent that is common to all
forms of tobacco. It is a powerful addicting drug that sustains widespread
tobacco use. Nicotine is an extremely toxic substance: just two or three drops
of the pure active alkaloid will kill an adult fast.
Read on: alcohol abuse in kenyan schools