The socio-economic factors related to Khat use and abuse in Garissa (Kenya)
The subject of this study was Catha edulis (Forsk), or Khat as it is popularly known. Khat is a plant that is widely used as a stimulant drug in many parts of Eastern Africa and the Middle East. Khat is a controversial drug in that there are many arguments as to whether ornot it should be categorized amongst the dangerous abused drugs, like alcohol, cannabis sativa, cocaine and others. The study had a number of objectives which included: (i) To give a general description of the extent and patterns ofkhat use, abuse (if any) and khat trade in a particular part ofKenya; (ii) To identify persons who are negatively affected by khat use and abuse and the kinds of problems they have; (iii) To find out what leads to khat use and abuse, and finally, (iv) To identify possible solutions for khat abuse problems. The data collection was guided by a number of questions and by specific hypotheses. From these questions and hypotheses, research questionnaires were formulated and these were administered to specially chosen sample populations. Other methods of data collection used in the study were participant observation, case-studies, available data and informal discussions. The findings showed that khat is indeed an abused drug used by a wide section of the community under study and that this use is on the increase. Khat trade was also discovered to be a booming and lucrative one. The findings also showed that khat use could directly or indirectly be associated with a wide variety of socio-economic problems. The problems identified are manifested more intensively in some specific groups of people; however the ill-effects of khat use and abuse indirectly permeate the whole society. The study showed that the major cause of the widespread use and abuse of khat can be understood only in the light of the disturbances that are associated with rapid social and economic change. Rapid social change has had numerous unsettling effects on many African and other societies in the last century. These societies find great difficulty in adapting to the new social and economic trends and what results is a disarray of the traditional cultures. The inevitable results seem to be things like aimlessness, undefined goals in life lack of: direction and behaviours like vagrancy, alcoholism and drug abuse. Factors that enhance khat and other drug use are the very easy availability of the drugs and the modern living arrangements, for example, social density (urbanization) of the users. In making recommendations for the solution of khat abuse problems, it was taken into consideration that the problems are deeply embedded in the society and thus the solutions must be informal and must be conceived with the society in question in mind. The problems themselves are two dimensional - first there is the problem of the khat abusers themselves and secondly the particular conditions and structures they find themselves in. The rectification of the structures requires long term organizational efforts and strategies; the problems of the individuals will partly be solved by the rectification of the societal structures and also partly by short term interventions by professionals like social-workers and doctors.