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Posted by: Health, Nutrition and Fitness on 27/10/2020

Is Opioid Use in Kenya as Common As It Is Elsewhere? If Not, Are There Other Addiction Problems in the Country?

Is Opioid Use in Kenya as Common As It Is Elsewhere? If Not, Are There Other Addiction Problems in the Country?

Although there has been a steady decline in the overall usage of a variety of substances such as cocaine and hashish in Kenya and throughout other parts of Africa, Kenya has unfortunately become home to one of the largest drug trafficking ports worldwide. Kenya's second-largest city, Mombasa, has become notorious for its drug trafficking and trade industry, which is primarily focused on opioids such as heroin. With the rise of drug trafficking occurrences throughout Kenya and other parts of Africa, it is important to gain a better understanding of how to properly remedy the situation without putting more Africans in danger.

Is Opioid Usage Common in Kenya?

Unfortunately, studies and research coming out of Kenya as well as throughout most parts of Africa show that Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is currently on the rise due to various drug trafficking hubs throughout Mombasa. Currently, 57% of all mental and substance abuse disorders occur in eastern parts of Africa, including Mauritius, Tanzania, and Kenya. With the skyrocketing of OUD and drug trafficking, traffickers and drug cartels have shifted their focus towards sub-Saharan African trade routes, thus bringing even more risk to the people of Kenya and other parts of Africa.

Drug mules, patients, and those who are struggling with substance use disorders have the most risks from opioid usage and overdoses in Kenya. Drug mules who traffic opioids must often swallow or consume bags containing drugs, which can rupture, empty into the body, emptying and being absorbed, causing a painful overdose and sometimes even death. In many instances, those who may be trafficking opioids are never found, which is why there is little to no data showcasing just how much the opioid crisis is hurting all of the citizens of Kenya, even those who are participating in the trafficking of opioids themselves.

Aside from drug trafficking, the rise of OUD is becoming increasingly common among all populations that utilize opioids and opiates on a massive scale, especially as painkillers. While opioids can be excellent sources of relief for individuals who have just had major surgery or with chronic pain that can’t be managed with other means, it also creates a serious addiction risk. The opiate class includes substances such as opium and heroin, two of the most addictive substances with a high risk of overdose and death. In countries such as Kenya, citizens may find themselves more apt to become addicted to opioids and opiate painkillers if there are no alternatives to help them with their pain or if they do not currently have access to proper healthcare and monitoring by a local doctor.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Use and Addiction?

Understanding the signs of opioid use and addiction can help you determine if an individual may require help or intervention. Not all symptoms may manifest in similar ways, which is why it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the signs if you believe someone you know may have an addiction. A dependence on opioids may also manifest itself in a variety of ways, including the following behaviors:

  • Frequently seeking prescription refills

  • Losing or having medication stolen repeatedly without rhyme or reason

  • Preoccupied with obtaining, using, and consuming opioids and opiates, even when there no longer is a need for them

  • Avoiding everyday responsibilities to spend more time obtaining opioids

  • Increased anxiety, especially when it comes to the possibility of running out of opioids

  • Increased irritability, mood swings 

  • Loss of interest in social and family activities as well as hobbies and work

  • Sleep disturbances (either too much or too little sleep)

  • Distancing oneself from the outside world, including workplaces and relatives

Physical Signs of Opioid Abuse 

Some physical signs and symptoms of opioid dependence and withdrawal include:

  • Goosebumps and chills, especially in those who are currently going through withdrawal 

  • Muscle aches and cramps along with joint pains 

  • Increased constipation 

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Impaired motor controls may be impaired, leading to increased falls

What Type of Substance Use Disorders Do Kenyans Experience?

In Kenya, one of the most prevalent substance use disorders includes alcoholism, which is a common issue throughout sub-Saharan Africa, as it is the easiest to access. However, with new drug trafficking routes beginning to infiltrate the coasts of Africa and Kenya, the opioid epidemic is beginning to spread among Eastern countries similar to those in the West.

Getting Help for Opioid Addiction in Kenya is Not Always Easy

Not all centers for substance abuse treatment are easy to find and accessible to anyone regardless of their location and current income level. Unfortunately, Kenya does not provide all the rehabilitation centers and programs necessary for those who have serious and life-threatening addictions.

It is possible to seek out resources for Kenyan and African treatment centers along with counseling programs that may be available near you online, which can provide the quickest path for you to seek the help you require for you or a loved one. Using online resources to find rehabilitation for opioid use disorder, or OUD, can help you to get on the right track as quickly as possible to prevent a life-threatening or devastating situation.

Opioid addictions are serious and can quickly become life-threatening and deadly, even for those who have built a tolerance of opiates and opioids in their system over time. Understanding the risks that opioids present and the inherent danger that opioid and opiate drug trafficking pose is essential to determine the best course of action when creating resources or lending a helping hand to Kenyans. With an understanding of root causes of addiction, locations of drug trafficking hubs, and insight into the mind and body once it has become addicted to heroin or other opiates, you can learn how to effectively contribute to turning the opioid crisis and epidemic around for good throughout Kenya and Africa altogether.

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. 


  • nih.gov - The Opioid Epidemic in Africa And Its Impact
  • nacada.go.ke - Status of Drugs and Substance Abuse among the General Population in Kenya
  • dw.com - Opioids in Africa: cheap and accessible 
  • france24.com - Kenya's second-largest city becomes world's new drug trafficking hub
  • unodc.org - Drug Abuse and Drug Dependence Treatment Situation 
  • reuters.com - Drug use in Kenya's coast communities up as West-bound heroin flows through
  • rush.edu - 9 Signs of Opioid Abuse

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