Counselling Department hosts annual Alcohol and Drug Awareness Week

By Patrick Obel and Lydia Winda

The annual Alcohol and Drug Awareness week 2023 campaign was scheduled to take place from March 21, 2023 to March 23, 2023. The theme for this year was, ‘Don’t be High, Just say Hi’. However, due to unavoidable circumstances we were forced to begin the events on Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

The outdoor activities took place at the tents that were pitched at the parking lot B both on Wednesday and Thursday before we proceeded to the auditorium for our panel discussions. We had alcohol screening exercise at the tents using AUDIT and SMAST for those who were interested to evaluate their alcohol use. We provided numerous information and education communication (IEC) materials about different drugs and other relevant psychological information including the types of services offered at the USIU-Africa Counseling Center. The counselors were available at the tents to administer the tests and answer questions of concern to those who visited the tents.

We made available a variety of games at the tents that the participants where they were encouraged to engage and take part in. These provided healthy and productive alternative fun activities for our students instead of engaging in unhealthy and harmful activities associated with substance use and abuse.

The week culminated in a talk show in the auditorium held on Thursday, March 23 from 2.00pm to 4.30pm. The talk show took a multi-disciplinary approach where experts were invited to talk about their areas of expertise in relation to alcohol and drug abuse. Among the areas covered were; how to take charge, master our financial wellbeing with emphasis on how students can make and grow their finances. This was covered by Professor Amos Njuguna. He also talked about wasters of financial resources by young people which included, gambling, alcohol and drugs, parties among other things. He stressed the importance of university students inculcating the habit of investing or saving while still in the university.

Dr. Susan Chang’orok, a faculty member at the Psychology Department delved deeper on life skill gaps among young people that contribute to alcohol and drug abuse, alternative ways of having fun and healthier ways through which university students can cope with problems, life’s demands and challenges that they experience. She stressed the need to admit that there is a problem, get to the root cause and seek therapy should there be need to. Some of the life skills that she lay emphasis on were; being assertive, resilient, help seeking attitude and avoiding shortcuts when it comes to dealing with life’s challenges.

Ms. Trizah Mwangi- senior public education and advocacy officer -NACADA shared the trends around alcohol and drug abuse among the youth in Kenya, preventive strategies young people can use to avoid the use of drugs, steps to take to manage addiction, cost of addiction, how friends and family can support an individual who is affected and the most commonly abused drugs. These included; alcohol, tobacco in its different forms, marijuana and khat (miraa). From her presentation, it was evident that there are serious drug issues among the youth that have resulted in an increase in clients being diagnosed with drug induced psychosis. It is important for young people to know that the cost of rehabilitation could be as high as Kshs. 500,000 hence the need to focus more on preventive measures.

Ms. Josephine Odhiambo- Program Lead at Youth Changers Kenya brought about the aspect of Gender Based Violence in relation to alcohol and drug use, the need for young people to protect themselves from GBV and the role of friends in being a friend’s keeper especially among their party groups.

Lastly, Mr. Brian Sande -A senior Human Resources Officer at USIU-Africa focused on trends among young people entering the work force in relation to alcohol and drug use. From his presentation, it was apparent that a number of young people in the work force have alcohol and drug related issues and that the youth should be intentional on ensuring that their leisure activities do not interfere with their performance at work. Alcohol and drug abuse affects the productivity of those already in employment who abuse them and risk the consequences.

We from the counseling center sincerely appreciate our very able panelists and sponsors (Youth changers Kenya and Eselle Group Foundation) who supported our activities that contributed to the success of this year’s Alcohol and Drug awareness week campaign. Very many thanks also go to the USIU-Africa community for their different roles in making this event a success. Remember drugs don’t build, they destroy and prevention is better than cure.

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