Factors influencing the consumption and control of Khat among the youth in Igembe South District, Meru County, Kenya
Kenya has been experiencing the problem of drug abuse especially chewing Khat (miraa) by the youth. The control of khat consumption has been intensified by the international community by them issuing trade bans, but this has not lead to drastic reduction of khat consumption. The Purpose of the study was to assess control of khat consumption among youths in Igembe South district, in Meru County, Kenya. The study objectives were to establish factors leading to consumption of khat by youths, to determine the level of awareness of khat consumption, to find out the strategies emoloyed in the control of khat consumption and to determine the challenges faced in the control of khat consumption among the youth. It adopted the use of descriptive research design. The data was gathered from the youths from secondary schools in Maua, health care workers and guidance and counseling teachers of sampled schools in Maua in Igembe South. Simple random sampling was used to select the youths while purposive sampling was used to select the health care workers and guidance and counseling teachers. Data collection was done using questionnaires, focused group discussion and observation schedule; The questionnaires were administered to the youths in secondary schools, guidance and counseling teachers and health workers. The data collected was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences. Descriptive and inferential statistics was used to analyze data both quantitatively and qualitatively. The research found that majority of the youths who participated in the research have never taken Khat, but, those who do started consuming Khat at the ages between 10-15 years. The research showed that Khat, it is the most popular drug of abuse taken by the youth in Igembe South District. Among the factors contributing to khat consumption by the youth include, the ease of availability with majority of the respondents indicating that it is easily available. The research further sought for the attitude of the respondents towards the consumption of different drugs of abuse and it emerged that khat consumption has the highest approval rate compared to the others, among them, alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine and heroin. In addition, the most popular source of help when it comes to drug abuse problems of the respondents indicated that they would seek help from their teachers if they needed help in dealing with drug abuse matters. Efforts have been made in schools to keep the students from taking drugs of abuse. Among the strategies used are random checks of the students' personal items and suspension of those found to be taking drugs within the school compound. There are challenges in controlling khat consumption such as easy availability and lack of expertise in drug abuse control. Among the recommendations made for the control of khat include the formation of clubs in schools that deal with issues of drug abuse and no sale of khat to persons below 18 years of age. Data analysed was presented in form of tables, and percentages. The study is significant because it provides a wholistic view of the factors leading the youth aged between 14-24 years to consume khat and the challenges faced in controlling khat consumption. The information obtained from the study will guide the government, parents and other stakeholders in the fight against drug abuse.