Kuber, a new narcotic drug of Indian origin disguised as a mouth freshener, has found its way on the Ugandan market and infiltrated schools in western Uganda.
The tea leaves-like substance, imported and sold in super markets, especially Indian-owned at Shs1,000 per sachet, has been on the market since 2009.
Although it is not classified as a drug under the National Drug Authority (NDA), addiction experts say they have been engaging government to ban it because its consumers, especially children, eventually get mental disorders.
An official from NDA, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the agency, told Daily Monitor the drug contains nicotine like cigarettes or tobacco leaves.
“Kuber does not fall under any category of drugs registered but from our research, we established that kuber does not cause any mental or physical harm,” the source said.
Little is known about kuber in Uganda. Packaged in sachets similar to tea leaves pouches and disguised as mouth freshener, kuber tobacco has lately been an international concern, with some countries banning it.
Information available shows that its users become dependent on it in the long run, leading to addiction. The drug affects brain activity, causing depression and subsequently delusions and hallucinations.
Medical sources say it is a highly addictive, intoxicating drug that has been openly sold in shops and supermarkets.
The nicotine-rich stimulant in Uganda is being consumed by street children, students, taxi drivers, purportedly to get high.
The burden to schools
The Chairman Kabale Secondary School Teachers Association, Mr Geoffrey Bashungwa, said first cases of kuber were cited in 2010 among students in Kabale, Mbarara and Bushenyi districts.
Mbarara High School head teacher John Agaba said they first cited cases of students using the drug last year but culprits were only warned since authorities had no information and health implications of the drug.
“Last year, we came across two used packets scattered in the dormitories. We warned the boys against it and we have not registered another case. I don’t know whether they stopped it or they are doing it stealthily, but this is an urban setting, so you can’t it rule out,” Mr Agaba said.
At St. Mary’s College, Rushoroza, officials said a case of students talking kuber was last registered in 2009, while Kabale SS head teacher Edwin Babimpa said they registered a case each in 2010 and 2011.
Students using the substance believe they can gain courage to read hard without feeling exhausted or dozing off while reading.
A research carried out in secondary schools in Bushenyi in 2009 revealed that marijuana and kuber were among the most used drugs.
Sources say the drug is said smuggled into boarding schools by workers, members of the community around schools and day scholars.
Efforts to get a comment from the National Drug Authority were futile after the chief drug inspector referred this newspaper to another official, who also asked us to call another inspector whose contact was not available.
Manufacturer’s instructions say kuber is not to be consumed by children below 18 years.
Malawi and Tanzania have banned its manufacture, import, sale and consumption following test control that revealed it contains cannabidol and delta-9-tetra hydracannabinol, which are primary elements in Indian Kemp (marijuana)
The drug is popular among students in secondary schools.
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