Youths must resist invitation to drug abuse at poll rallies
Simon Mwangi and Judith Twala
It is political high season in Kenya and the most notable thing at the moment is that the youth are being endeared by political formations with a view to win over their support.
The youth are mainly the ones attending rallies and directly involved in political activity.
But in that whole mix lies the allure of drug use and abuse so as to firstly cash in on the political spending, and to also remain indefatigable throughout the period since it is short-lived.
A drugged youth means an unstable electioneering period with civil disorder.
In the long run the drugged youth may not even participate in the voting process evidently because of the effect of drugs.
Youths are at the top of the pecking order when political mobilisation of gangs for political expediency begins due to their agility and other pre-disposing factors.
Research has shown drugs trigger violent behaviour in users. At an individual level, violence may be sparked by events in users’ lives, such as mistreatment or detention by the police; loss of a job or failure to find one; rejection by a peer, partner, or family member; substance abuse or emotional trauma.
At a group level, the decision to engage in violence can be sparked by public events: acts that citizens view as coerced or accomplished by fraud and deceit of public officials, public denigration of an ethnic or religious group, abuse by security forces, policy changes, or economic crises.
Politics in general tend to be a source of stress, anxiety and tension for many people.
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, a poll found that 57 per cent of Americans cited the then political climate in the US as a significant source of stress.
Stress can be a big contributing factor to the development of substance use disorders.
Study after study shows that those exposed to high levels of stress are more likely to abuse alcohol, do drugs, or relapse if they already completed a medical detox program and are now sober.
In an attempt to escape the 2022 election stress, some people may be turning to drugs or alcohol for help.
Not to mention the fact that if their chosen candidate doesn’t win, coping with the loss may make the substances even more tempting.
In some cases, drinking during the election season is seen as trendy. The Internet is filled with a variety of election drinking games for debates and election night.
While the games are meant to be in fun, they may have more devastating results than many people realise and could exacerbate the relationship between elections and substance abuse.
For those struggling with alcoholism, this correlation may be dangerous. They may use the election drinking games as excuse for alcohol abuse and push their drinking over the edge.
A strong community infrastructure can serve as a protective factor. Communities can generate activities for youth that offer opportunities to make decisions and share responsibility, helping them to increase their skills and self-confidence as well as contribute to the community.
Structures within communities, such as faith-based organisations, help build youth resilience by giving them a sense of identity and belonging as well as a place to grow and practice adult skills such as leadership. — Mwangi is manager, Corporate Communications while Twala is manager, Counselling and Rehabilitation at Nacada