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Supply suppression or Demand Reduction

Drug Use Reduction in Africa. Are We Missing the Mark?

By Jacob Aduda

I have had the privilege of participating in both supply suppression and demand reduction of psychoactive substances programs. It is a field fraught with challenges and accompanying dangers depending on which side of the field you are in.

In the corridors of the powers that be and to the general public whenever news of drug use related deaths and injuries are reported they will always seek to put the spotlight on the agencies charged with the task of controlling or fighting against illicit drug use. The same case applies to when there are some visuals about successful drug bust, the concerned will always celebrate and shout about it from the top of the mountains.
However, it is worth noting that both supply suppression and demand reduction work hand in hand and not in isolation for us to reduce initiation to drug and substance use among the populace. Several countries in Africa have embraced this strategy in their efforts to carry out drug use demand reduction. Kenya is such an example where by supply suppression and demand reduction is espoused in the campaign against psychoactive substance use. This involves laying down strategies and structures that are evidence based to reduce initiation to drug and substance use.

From my point of view demand reduction strategies are mostly the soft powers deployed to reduce the accessibility and access to psychoactive substances and their use. This includes development of policies, laws and programmes like life skills applicable to different settings of the environment. To elaborate further drug prevention needs to begin right from the stage of a fetus and proceed to all the stages of lifetime of an individual. Do governments in Africa invest in such strategies or they prefer the sound bites of supply suppression like arrests and imprisonment only?  Where have we heavily invested in our efforts as a country and as a continent?