Last weekend I went to one of the beaches in Entebbe and it was incredible to see the number of young people using drugs in broad daylight.
I saw them smoke drugs and could not believe my eyes. I have had an opportunity to visit and study the Israel anti-drug programme one of the best national programmes in the world.
I also interface with young people every day struggling with drugs. As a leader cum service provider in Uganda, I challenge myself on what I have to do and what the country must do to address this challenge.
The drug abuse problem is a social issue which is precipitated by what is going on in society.
In Uganda, the efforts to mitigate drug abuse challenge is done in a disjointed manner. Some people are into rehabilitation and treatment; others are into law enforcement, others in the legal practice and others in prevention but all of them work separately.
All these do great work but achieve less with such disjointed efforts.
We need to understand what is causing the increase in drug abuse especially among young productive people.
No single intervention is effective. What is effective is a combination of interventions.
Studies by National Institute of Drug Abuse and others show that drug addiction is associated with the way children and adolescents are raised.
All of us need to check how we groom our children. To mitigate the drug abuse challenge we need to address the following:
One, as parents, we are absent from the lives of our children. It is time we get back to them and nurture them the way our good parents in the villages used to.
Schools should provide a positive school environment.
We need to build each young persons sense of self-worth and ensure that each young person feels connected to the world.
As a nation we need concerted efforts from police, military, health professionals, Ministry of Education, foreign affairs and other key ministries to jointly address the challenge.
We need an anti-drug authority where all of us players can come together, intervene together, evaluate ourselves continuously and mobilise for resources together. The government needs to take this as a big challenge worth focusing on.
It has destroyed students, musicians, professionals and others. Many people die, accidents occur, diseases, young people drop out of schools, suicide cases increase, productivity is destroyed and yet no major steps have been taken to address the drug challenge as a nation.
Yes we can do a lot putting in mind that alone you can go far, but as a team you can go further.
Henry Nsubuga, Makerere University Counselling and Guidance