Female Police Officer combating Kush drug menace

Dadson A. Musa 

Kush is a synthetic drug that has been widely circulated and traded in the the city of Bo, southern Sierra Leone. It is a killer drug that has claimed the lives of many youths and and also adversely impacted the health of many others. Its use has spread widely and it is becoming a serious health concern. Due to the high demand for the drug, the dealers are making ” quick and big money albeit to the detriment of our youth’s health.” Youths, are usually cramped in ghettos around town or in makeshift buildings .

They sit hunched over on benches, others stand around in case another police raid nears. Once they take like two or three packs of the kush drug which costs Nle15 ,their eyes are not wide open, heads lolling. Basically, they either sit or stand sleeping . ” It makes me forget my sorrows in hard economic times like this, no job , nobody to help me with college fees and limited opportunities,” said a man  by the nickname Shaggy.

His physical condition has depreciated as the balanced diet to help him keep up with the drug intake is either in short supply or lacking. The addiction also make them forget to take care of themselves as they don’t buy anything good other than kush. The drug users always look haggard and unkept.

Jane Hull, not her real name revealed that she” shifted from buying and selling other consumables and items to kush, because with kush drug the money comes faster and bigger.” The profit margin way surpasses that of the other commodities that she has been trading in. This is because the demand for kush has seen an exponential rise.  The drug puts youths to some level of ecstasy quickly to a point that they doze off even when standing. It is a scene that evokes laughter and empathy at the same time. The ankles and other joints get swollen once the drug is taken continuously. This has prompted the Ministry of health to prepare a rehabilitation center in the capital, Freetown so that it is flushes out of their system specimens of the drug. This takes time to happen according to one of the medical doctors in charge of taking care of them.

The Minister of Health and Sanitation ,  Dr. Austin Demby has refused yet to call it a health emergency as according to him in a press conference in Freetown they ” are putting things in place with partners like the WHO, UNICEF and other NGOs concerned with health issues.” They want to make sure the facility put up can handle the kush drug addict in a clinically efficient manner.

The psychiatric center is now 70% full of kush drug takers and the facility is not enough to handle them. Psychiatric doctors and in  very short supply so the available one have been overwhelmed with influx of patients.  But it is far from being enough as a regional headquarter town of Bo has no psychiatric center but only remand home or the general government hospital that has no specialist for that. One youth leader in Bo, Joseph Fahnbulleh has cautioned ” against stigmatizing the drug offenders and rather called for counseling instead of severe penalties.” He went further to say that if they are stigmatized” it might lead to other mental health complications which can make it difficult for them to recover.”

In stemming the trade and the use of kush drug, a female police officer who is the Local Unit Commander (L. U. C.) in Bo, Sia Bernadette Sandy has been remarkable in this fight against the killer drug kush. She does not take all the credit but ” thanks the Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police, William Fayia Sellu for support.” Sia Bernadette Sandy holds a first degree and served in two foreign missions; Somalia and Sudan as part of the Sierra Leone contingent. L. U. C. Sandy has used the carrot and stick approach to curb the kush flow. ” Advocacy, civil society, media and stakeholder engagements ” have been helpful in her fight against the drug. In her approach, she targets the dealers as they are making the drug available for sale to the youths. She also revealed that punishment and heavy fines have been instituted to ensure people are deterred from drug sale and use.

Notable among the punishment include dismissing and taking to court of even police officers who collude with dealers or take the drug themselves. Madam Sia Sandy uses ” open door policy but maintains integrity in the fight against kush drug.” A male youth, Jones ( not his real name ) who has just been rehabilitated and has really come off the drug laments getting involved in the drug use in the first place. He confesses getting ” involved in petty crimes just to get money by what ever means to purchase the drug.” Government is not going “to let his guard down in this fight against kush so the raiding of ghettos, making arrests, making arrests, charging to court and imposing fines is not going to stop until the battle is won,” vows LUC, Sia Bernadette Sandy. The drug fight  ” is never an easy one as there are also delays in the justice system in Sierra Leone generally.”

So bringing defaulters to justice takes time. It is also suspected that there are powerful hands behind the drug trade which has made the work of LUC Sia Bernadette Sandy a bit challenging. Not many parents in Bo can afford to take their children all the way to Freetown for rehabilitation, so some have died and others risk losing their good health for life or even die. When I put it to LUC Sia Bernadette Sandy in her sensitization they should encourage youths to use sports as alternative to drug taking, her reply was ” yes, I agree but there has to be engagement with the two line ministries; youths and sports although it will take time to achieve results.” So the sports and youth ministries must step up with programs so that the good work of this hardworking LUC does not go in vain.

This kush drug intake is beginning to tell on our youthful population. The distraction from pursuing education even when government has made it free and to some extent compulsory. Our youths in schools, technical institutions and other colleges of higher learning are facing mental health issues. They’re not concentrating anymore and once they are on kush drug their focus moves away from studying to intoxicating themselves with the drug. They become social pariahs as they lose consciousness and mental health problems set in .

Their future and by extension that of the country’s hangs in real balance. ” If those who are the future leaders of our country become drug- infested and whose reasoning power is tampered with then I fear for the future of my country,” a concerned parent retorted when asked. Crime rate among our youths is on the increase due to the intake of this drug.

So the battle for LUC, Sia Bernadette Sandy is ” two – fold or even three fold as the case maybe.” That is why as a mother herself she is not letting up in this fight against the kush drug even when the deck is so stack against her and the entire security sector in Sierra Leone. Some parents have given up on their drug – dependent kids while others are using their last penny left to save their children and by extension the next generation of adults in this country.

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