Deadly Kush Addiction In Sierra Leone Prompts Desperate Measures As Communities Struggle To Cope

Communities in Sierra Leone are taking desperate measures to combat the spread of a deadly drug epidemic that is claiming the nation’s young men and chaining them to a life of addiction and despair.

Kush, a psychoactive blend of addictive substances, has become a scourge in Sierra Leone, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. The drug’s impact is evident in the streets where young men with swollen limbs, a telltale sign of kush abuse, congregate in desperate groups. The toll on mental health is equally alarming, with admissions to the country’s sole psychiatric hospital linked to kush skyrocketing by nearly 4,000% between 2020 and 2023.

Frustrated by the lack of adequate response from authorities, some communities have taken matters into their own hands. In the Bombay suburb of Freetown, volunteers have converted an abandoned building into a treatment center where they sometimes resort to chaining addicts to prevent them from escaping, a grim echo of practices once used by the psychiatric hospital.

The depths of despair have driven some addicts to unimaginable lengths, including digging up skeletons from graves to grind bones as an ingredient in kush. The macabre practice has prompted local cemeteries to request police security to protect the final resting places of the deceased.

President Julius Maada Bio’s declaration of a national emergency over the kush crisis has been met with mixed reactions. While some applaud the move as a crucial step in addressing the epidemic, others criticize the administration for its lack of strategy and drive in responding to the crisis. The president has directed the establishment of a National Task Force on Drugs and Substance Abuse to focus on prevention, treatment, law enforcement and community engagement.

As Sierra Leone grapples with the kush epidemic, the stories of families torn apart by addiction serve as a poignant reminder of the human cost of this crisis. Mothers watch helplessly as their once-promising sons succumb to the drug’s grip, their futures crumbling before their eyes.