News / Africa

Drug Abuse is Major Threat to Street Kids

Living on the streets - Young woman holds a child while sniffing glue. Credit: Braitstein
Living on the streets - Young woman holds a child while sniffing glue. Credit: Braitstein

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
There are millions of children around the world living or working on the streets. A new study says their struggle to survive is made even harder by high levels of drug use.


The journal Addiction has published a systematic review of 50 studies on street kids conducted in 22 countries. It describes a “hidden epidemic” of drug use that “poses serious health threats.”

Dr. Paula Braitstein, who’s based in Kenya, is the senior author of the study. She explained why she and her colleagues wanted to learn more about drug abuse among street children.

“We live full time in Eldoret, most of us, and on a daily basis we see children and adolescents, even young children, walking around the streets of Eldoret with glue bottles essentially stuck to their noses. You see it really across Kenya and many parts of Africa as you’re traveling.  I’m an epidemiologist, and we’re very concerned about the health and well being of these young people.”

Braitstein is an associate research professor at Indiana University School of Medicine. She said over the years there was little research specifically done on street kid drug abuse. That prompted the in-depth review of past studies looking for information.
Street youth reaches for a battered football (soccer ball) with one hand while holding a glue bottle in the other. Credit BraitsteinStreet youth reaches for a battered football (soccer ball) with one hand while holding a glue bottle in the other. Credit Braitstein
x
Street youth reaches for a battered football (soccer ball) with one hand while holding a glue bottle in the other. Credit Braitstein
Street youth reaches for a battered football (soccer ball) with one hand while holding a glue bottle in the other. Credit Braitstein

“ I wasn’t surprised to see that 60 percent overall of street involved youth in resource-constrained settings use some sort of substance. I was surprised to see that close to 50 percent of them were actually using inhalants - predominantly glue, paint thinner, that kind of thing. I thought that was very, very high,” she said.

Slang words for using inhalants include sniffing, huffing, dusting and bagging. Street kids using inhalants are most likely found in low and middle income countries. Inhalants are cheap and easy to get.

“They’re so detrimental to a person’s health,” she said, “They cause really a lot of shot term effects, for example, sudden heart failure. They cause teratogenic effects. So if a girl is pregnant – she’s sniffing – and it gets passed on to her baby and causes birth defects of various kinds. It causes a huge amount of cognitive effects. Basically, their brains become impaired. The substances in the glue basically just kill your brain cells.”

The study found that street children also use alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. But inhalants are not regulated or illegal.

In high income countries, injection drugs are more popular, including heroin. Injecting drugs carries a high risk of HIV infection, as well as many other diseases, because of contaminated needles.

Braitstein said that researchers know why drug use is so widespread among street children.

“The most common reasons were essentially peer pressure, the need to survive. A lot of children report using drugs in order to cope with cold, hunger, fear -- just for pleasure -- experimentation and courage.”

Street children abusing drugs can also have a much harder time re-entering society.

“Once a child is addicted to something like glue, it makes it very difficult for them to go to school – have a normal family life. It affects their brain. It affects their cognitive abilities to learn, for example, to adapt, to adjust. Their brains will have changed. Their personalities will have changed. And they don’t understand it and the people around them don’t understand it,” she said.

Braitstein called the study a “wake-up call” for policymakers, international NGOs, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid