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Heroin, Cocaine Use Increase in Uganda

Ugandan police are dealing with an increase in illegal drugs.

Neighboring Kenya and Tanzania have increased their efforts to end the transport of illegal drugs. So smugglers are now said to be transporting large amounts of the drugs through Uganda.

Officials say the criminals are using Entebbe airport -- near the capital Kampala -- to transport heroin and cocaine to Europe.

Some of the drugs are also being sold in Kampala. Health workers say this is leading to a sharp increase in the number of Ugandans who are addicted to illegal drugs.

Some young people use heroin as soon as they wake up. Kelvin Kayimba is 25 years old. He says he has been using heroin since he was 18.

“You feel so good, you just, nothing is disturbing you. No worries. Not think about anything, just thinking about the high -- that’s all.”

Ugandan health officials say they have seen an increase in the use of illegal drugs since 2011. A small amount of heroin can cost as little $8.

Syrus Malcolm works for the Uganda Harm Reduction Network. He was once a drug addict. He says addicts are at risk of becoming infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. People can die from AIDS if they are not treated with medicine.

“A needle-exchange program is not allowed in the country. And most of the drug users don’t know that when they’re injecting drugs, they’re exposing their lives to the risk of HIV transmission.”

His group is asking the government to let it give clean needles to addicts. It also wants the government to create treatment programs to help addicts stop their use of illegal drugs.

Last year, activists launched a new education campaign to warn young people about the dangers of illegal drugs. Esther Vihamba works for the campaign.

“The middle class have more money and all that, so they want the next high. Now they want to surpass alcohol and get into the cocaine, the heroin -- and it goes as far as you can imagine.”

Kelvin Kayimba says it is not easy to stop using drugs once you are addicted.

“I’ve seen people who have stopped. But stopping will, will, involve changing new friends -- lots of stuff.”

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Correspondent Serginho Roosblad reported this story from Kampala, Uganda. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the story into VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

smuggle – v. to move (someone or something) from one country into another illegally and secretly

addicted – adj. unable to stop using a harmful substance (such as a drug)

disturbed – adj. worried and unhappy

high – n. informal a state of intoxication produced by a drug

inject – v. to place a liquid medicine or drug into someone or something by using a needle

surpass – v. to be better or greater than (someone or something)

stuff – n. informal actions or behaviors

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