In Summary
  • With more than 40 percent of the 60,000 residents addicted to miraa or khat, it is not unusual for chewers to go to great lengths for a 'high'.
  • Some skip meals while others borrow money or sell their animals and other property, even for the smallest portions of the product.
  • Mr Kofa Hiribae, once an addict, says chewers are so attracted to the sweetness brought on by diazepam that they do not consider its side effects.
  • He adds that women and youths usually befriend attendants at the chemists for easy sales while others simply pay higher prices to keep them quiet.

Packages of short red-green stalks on sale at various shops in Hola, Tana River County, are a sign of a booming miraa trade driven by the young generation

With more than 40 percent of the 60,000 residents addicted to miraa or khat, according to the latest survey by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada), it is not unusual for chewers to go to great lengths for a 'high'.

Some skip meals while others borrow money or sell their animals and other property, even for the smallest portions of the product.

EXCITEMENT

The day begins at about 10am with residents meeting in Hola town, anxious to see the red, striped double cabin car that transports the miraa from Meru County.

Some boda boda operators wait for the vehicle at Makutano Junction and accompany it to the town a few kilometres away.

The town then turns noisy as both men and women negotiate the best prices for different portions of the product, with retailers taking large stocks to their outlets.

Miraa trade in Tana River

A customer negotiates the price of a miraa at a market in Hola, Tana River County. PHOTO | STEPHEN ODUOR | NATION MEDIA GROUP

'SWEETENER'

In this town, the addiction is propelled by a special stimulant that makes the miraa sweet.

Diazepam is the special drug chewed with miraa to enhance stimulation and keep the buyer coming.

It is a prescribed drug in a group known as benzodiazepines that is used to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal and seizures; relieve muscle spasms and provide sedation before medical procedures as it calms the brain and nerves.

In Hola, however, it is regarded as a stimulant.

TACTICS

Mr Kofa Hiribae, once an addict, says chewers are so attracted to the sweetness brought on by diazepam that they do not consider its side effects.

“The few chemists in Hola and its surroundings are making huge profits. They sell the drug secretly as it is illegal to dispense such a drug without a doctors' prescription,” Mr Kofa says.

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