-As it kills, and maltreats the youth

Photo of Kush

By Jerromie S. Walters

Kush, a very harmful illegal drug, is speedily increasing on every street corner across Liberia, as its terribleness has been seen through the multiplicity of demeaning ways it has treated its end users, especially young folks (at-risk youth and home children), through maltreatment, madness, and death.

A few months ago, there were several deaths that were reportedly influenced by the consumption of kush in Caldwell, New Georgia, Central Caldwell Back Road, Grand Cape Mount County, and other parts of Liberia, as young people remain the number one victims.

Hundreds of young Liberians are indescribably falling prey to the dreadful hands of the narcotic substance that’s also known as K2, which often treats them like they are going mad.

Drug users’ personal kush experience

Annie (not her real name), a 23-year-old drug user who got involved in it through peer pressure, described Kush as terrible as one could imagine, stressing that they are being greatly affected by it because it is more dangerous than cocaine and marijuana.

“It’s something that, when you take it, makes you feel like you are in the next world; it makes you miserable; it’s very bad, and if you don’t have a good resistance to it, it can kill you,” she said.

Emphasising the difference between Kush, marijuana, and cocaine, Annie said that though cocaine is bad, it’s more preferable and advisable to consume than Kush.

“The grass is much better than the kush, because you can be a bit ok if you take the grass, but the kush, when it’s leaving from within you, that’s the time you can know yourself, but it’s not correct, the kush is not correct, it’s very bad indeed, it’s a bad thing the people are bringing for us,” she added.

According to the kush addict, they often buy it on Gurley Street, Buchanan Street, Centre Street, and other streets in central Monrovia for LRD 100 for a piece of it.

Synonymous to Annie’s testimony, Konah (not her real name), a 28-year-old disadvantaged youth, said whenever she takes Kush, she feels miserable, a feeling that sometimes makes her do mad things.

“Really, when I smoke the drug, I don’t really feel hard, but anytime I speak the Kush, I can feel hard and like I am in a different world; sometimes it can make me eat, and when I don’t have food, I can be confused,” she narrated.

She continued, “Prof, really, the Kush gets bad spirit; when you smoke the grass, it makes you meditate, but the Kush can make you almost crazy; sometimes if you don’t have a strong system, you can get crazy, and it has happened to some of our men here now; they are crazy in the street.”

As narrated by Kona, days ago, she took Kush, and her friends from the ghetto along with other concerned citizens had to pour huge quantities of water on her head before she became normal.

“It did not treat me like that; the people got to waste water on me because I was not to myself; after I came to myself and realised what people told me, I was shamed because they said I was jeering and acting confused,” she explained.

In addition to Annie and Konah’s troubling Kush experience, Massa (not her real name), a 5-year-old drug user who uses the famous deplorable Pelham building on Centre Street as her shelter, characterised Kush as the worst of all illegal substances she has consumed.

“Kush is bad.” I don’t smoke it always, because the day I smoked it, it was just like I was in jail, and if you smoke Kush the same way crazy people can act, that’s how you can be behaving.

Like several other drug users we spoke with, Massa said cocaine and marijuana are far better than Kush in terms of their reaction to end users.

As a result of this demeaning experience, the young people want the government to assert efforts in order to ensure that the harmful substance gets off the Liberian market because it is negatively affecting the youths and some elderly folks, and they are suffering.

What is Kush?

“Kush” is one of the popular substances (drugs) that arrived in Liberia in late 2020 or early 2021, similar to when it arrived in Sierra Leone, but it was scarce on the drug market in Liberia.

It’s a substance rolled up and smoked like a cigarette, but it’s not the same as marijuana.

Though it is quite different from marijuana in terms of size, shape, and form, Kush is known for its intense sedative effects on its users.

It is famously known as “K2,” however, it has other street names like Bliss, Blaze, Fake Weed, etc.

Why do people consume kush?

Many of those we spoke with couldn’t give a justifiable reason why they consume Kush; however, some attributed it to the fact that it makes them active.

Moreover, some say it increases their appetite, while others say it increases their sexual desire.

Even though they are knowledgeable of its terrific reaction and how it manhandles them whenever they consume it, the young people said once it’s not harming them, it increases their thoughts.

How dangerous is kush to those who frequently consume it?

Like many other illicit drugs, research has shown that Kush can lead to blood pressure changes (blood pressure may go both up and down and may change suddenly at different phases of the drug’s active period), dizziness, drowsiness, extreme fatigue, facial flushing, and red, irritated-looking eyes (which may happen with or without any discomfort), and short-term impairment of memory and cognition (possible long-term impairment is being explored).

It often results in coughing, increases mucus production, and may, with long-term use, increase the risk of asthma and COPD, vomiting, and abdominal cramping.

It is established that in pregnancy, it may also be associated with premature births and babies born underweight or needing additional medical assistance.

In addition to the side effects of Kush, you should also know about the addiction risk that using Kush and Kush products can bring.

What parts of Liberia Kush is found?

A thorough probe has unearthed that Kush is found in all 15 counties across Liberia.

Though this does not mean it is adequately available on every street corner in the various counties, it is mostly available in every part of Montserrado, the county that holds Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.

Kush peddlers’ position

As the substance remains a serious threat to the country, those involved with the sale described it as their only source of income.

A dealer in central Monrovia, who we spoke with but preferred being off record, said they are cognizant of how bad the substance is, but just as he’s addicted to it, his customers have also become addicted to it, and as such, he can’t renege on making it available for them.

Just like other legal businesses, he sees it as a profitable business, which shows that his service is still important to those who are interested in it.

Is Kush legal in Liberia?

Like cocaine and other harmful substances, kush is illegal in Liberia, but the drug law makes it a billable offence, meaning perpetrators are eligible for bail.

According to part ||, count 11 of the current drug law, it provides that “Any person who, without lawful authority-(a) imports, manufactures, produces, processes, plants or grows the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroin or any other similar drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life; or

(b) exports, transports, or otherwise traffics in the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroin, or any other similar drugs, they shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life”.

It further states that “any person who sells, buys, exposes, offers for sale, or otherwise deals in or with the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine, or any other similar drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life; or

Cd) knowingly possesses or uses the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine, or any other similar drugs by smoking, inhaling, or injecting the said drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than fifteen years but not exceeding 25 years”.

As a result of mounting pressure from concerned Liberians and INGOs about stronger laws on drugs, the

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate on Thursday, November 10, 2022, passed into law the “Controlled Drug and Substances Act of 2014.”

Taking the decision, the Senate categorises drug crime into two categories, thereby making it non-bailable or bailable depending on the gravity of the crime.

In the wisdom of the Senate, those who are involved in the importation, distribution, massive production, and custody of illicit drugs shall not be granted the right to bail when caught in the act, while the end users of the drugs shall have the right to bail when apprehended in the act.

The bill is currently at the President’s desk awaiting his signature to become law.

None Kush consumers’ view

As a result of its horrific threat to those that often consume it, concerned social media users across Liberia have called the government’s attention to the troubling substance.

“A narcotic substance (drug) known as Kush or K2 is taking the lives of so many young people,” a Liberian wrote.

In another Facebook post, a young Liberian narrates, “Mothers are losing their children on a daily basis.” Of recent, about 4 persons died from taking in this harmful substance in the Soniewen community, and even reports have it that a staggering number of young people have died in other communities from this as well.

They have rallied the government’s attention to the situation, thus describing it as a national crisis with the hashtag “No to Drugs.”

On different occasions, scores of other Liberians have shared their experiences with how “KUSH” has treated most of the young folks that have been involved with it.

“Let’s protect our babies as we strive to fight against the most deadly disease in our country, now called KUSH.”

He continued, “I watched a young guy around 18 or 19 years old. Who left me in my yard while preparing my detergent products for sale? He returned in less than 30 minutes. But he was very calm, with nothing smelling on him, and he was gone in less than 5 minutes. Omg, the boy started sweating so profusely that his clothes got soaking wet. I was afraid when blood started coming from his nose, Jesus”. 

According to him, “Another passer-by said, Daddy, don’t worry, I just gave him enough water, and the rest was history.” He came through later. Another passerby said, Daddy, don’t worry; I just gave him enough water, and the rest was history.” He came through later. My body still shakes each time I reflect. Our children are dying, and we as parents and community dwellers must stand up and rescue our children”.

Ishmael Ballah Mayango, a Liberian youth, expressed dismay over the situation and called on the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) and other civil rights organisations to do the needful.

“By now, there should be an awareness campaign and strategies put in place to combat this newly narcotic substance, #Kush and #Spark, that is killing and getting young people off their heads. It’s so toxic and alarming. Let’s say no to drugs,”, he suggested.

Conspicuously, some other Liberians are of the opinion that young people are on the verge of going to their dark place because of “KUSH.”

They believe that one of the major problems is that KUSH is entering Liberia through its porous borders with neighbouring countries, especially Sierra Leone.

“As a concerned Liberian, I am appealing to the national government to treat KUSH as a national emergency and take swift and decisive action to protect young people. The government should prioritise this issue over politics and work with all Liberians to find a solution”.

He believes that the situation is troubling and that the government needs to act urgently to stop the spread of KUSH and save young lives.

Advocates’ position 

Maxson Kpakio, the Executive Director of the Justice Forum Liberia, has recommended the need for a ban on the sale of kush, shisha, and other narcotic substances in Liberia.

“For God’s sake, let’s place a ban on all of them, and violators should be punished harshly.” “Kush and Shiha are also very dangerous to human beings,” he articulated at a peaceful assembly in Monrovia.

He continued, “Ban the sale of hookah and other narcotic substances in Liberia for the sake of the innocent children that are consuming them and dying.”

Kush in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea

Months ago, there were reports of young people killing or harming themselves and others as a result of the consumption of kush in Sierra Leone.

According to the BBC, medical staff in the capital Freetown revealed that 90% of the male admissions to the central psychiatric ward are due to Kush use.

Liberia and Sierra Leone’s neighbour, Guinea, are also battling to contain an increase in the consumption of kush.

Authorities say that more than ten young men have died after taking the substance. Many others were undergoing medical treatments due to side effects.

Guinea and Sierra Leone share a border with Liberia. Many Guineans blame Sierra Leonean drug dealers for illegally transporting Kush into the country, something Liberians have also complained about.

What’s the Liberia LDEA Doing?

Legally, the act that established the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) gives the institution the responsibility to adopt measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate, or seize proceeds derived from drug-related offences or property whose value corresponds to such proceeds.

It gives the LDEA the power to adopt measures to eradicate illicit cultivation of narcotic plants and to eliminate illicit demand for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances with a view to reducing human suffering and eliminating financial incentives for illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, among others.

Since the introduction of Kush in Liberia, a lot has not been done by the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency to tackle it specifically, but all efforts from time to time through the destruction of ghettos have been made towards addressing the widespread availability of drugs across the country.

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