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West African nation declares emergency over drug believed to be made from human bones

The substance, known as ‘kush’, has reportedly caused hundreds of deaths in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has declared a “national emergency on drug abuse” amid calls from health services and local communities to stop the spread of a synthetic drug that reportedly contains human bones and has led to hundreds of deaths.

The substance in question – ‘kush’ – is a mixture of chemical substances including, but not limited to, marijuana, fentanyl, and tramadol. It is highly addictive and very cheap, and has similar effects to cannabis. It has been spreading in the country for years, and has reportedly caused numerous deaths from organ failure and mental disorders, including permanent brain damage.

In an address to the nation on Thursday night, Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio said, “it is my solemn duty… to declare a national emergency on drug abuse.”

“Our country is currently facing an existential threat due to the devastating impact of drugs and drug addiction, particularly the devastating synthetic drug kush,” he stated, adding that there have been “escalating fatalities” among users.

There is no official death toll for users of the drug, but according to a BBC report citing a source within the medical sphere, in recent months, several hundred kush users, mostly young people, have died in the capital, Freetown. The country’s sole psychiatric hospital reported that between 2020 and 2023, admissions linked to kush jumped by nearly 4,000%, and reached 1,865 people.

The ingredients that go into kush are not always the same, but according to reports, it sometimes contains ground-up human bones, though the purpose for this is unclear. The recent spike in use has led Freetown’s authorities to set up police guards at cemeteries to protect them from addicts digging up graves to make more of the drug, media reports suggest.


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In the address, Bio said the government will create a task force to oversee drug abuse prevention, treatment of addicts, as well as social services support and law enforcement and community engagement in the country with regard to the sale and use of kush and other drugs. He also noted that the authorities will step up work on dismantling drug trafficking networks. According to Freetown police commissioner Joseph Lahai, local law enforcement seized two containers of kush in the capital earlier this week, with seven suspected drug traffickers detained.

April 06, 2024 at 05:41PM
RT

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