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The ‘Zombie’ Drug Epidemic Sweeping West Africa

Kush first emerged in Sierra Leone half a dozen or so years ago…The composition of the drug varies from place to place. Fentanyl and tramadol are said to be ingredients, as is formalin, a disinfectant…The drug has become commonplace across Sierra Leone, with whole neighbourhoods and communities addicted to the narcotic. But putting a precise figure on usage rates is difficult…

The [Sierra Leone Psychiatric] Teaching Hospital provides isolation treatment, which lasts between three to six weeks, and antipsychotic drugs to help wean patients off their addiction. But it is the only facility of its kind offering active care to kush patients in Sierra Leone. Indeed, there are just five psychiatrists in the entire country, home to roughly 8.4 million, according to the World Health Organisation, making it impossible to tackle the spiralling epidemic.

Sierra Leone’s youth unemployment rate – which stands at 60 per cent, one of the highest in the world – is further compounding the issue, experts say…There is no official data available for deaths related to the drug, but health experts estimate around a dozen kush users die weekly in Sierra Leone…But it’s not just Sierra Leone which is grappling with the fallout from kush. A wave of addiction is slowly moving across West Africa, with the horrors of Freetown now being repeated in the urban centres of Liberia and Guinea. Estimates suggest more than a million people from the region are now addicted.

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