A glimpse of Nairobi’s drug culture.


When we talk about drug abuse in Kenya, the first place one thinks of can be the Coast, with its numerous overt addicts. However, Nairobi also has its own set of drug problems, as well as also also a fresh, easily disguised type of addict can be emerging – the one who moves in stealth because they do not look like a drug addict. And their addictions of choice are varied as well as sophisticated.


Pills, not portions – By Rachel Wambui

Lillian* had been several years free from alcohol and cocaine abuse. Out on a camping and hiking trip in August of 2013, she slipped and severely injured her back. She was airlifted back to Nairobi and was told she had a slipped disc, compressing on her spinal nerves.

“When you are in recovery, you are advised to let every doctor know that you are an addict so that they are mindful of the meds they give you, even if you just have a cold,” she says. But a week of physiotherapy while on regular pain killers was too much to bear.

“It was tricky situation,” she explains. “I had to take opioids and risk slipping back into active addiction, or living with too much pain for me to do physio, which meant my back wouldn’t heal.”

She eventually agreed to a small and controlled dosage of Demerol – an opioid pain killer which comes with this particular warning: “Demerol can slow or stop your breathing. Never take this medicine for longer than prescribed. Never share this medicine with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. Demerol may be habit-forming, even at regular doses.”

Though the meds allowed her to undergo physiotherapy and yoga and thus recover faster, she regrets the fact that after her prescription time was done, she continued taking the medication.

“I was hooked the same way I had been hooked to booze and cocaine.” She would continue to pop the pills for two more years, this time delivered by her previous cocaine dealer and obtained across the counter from two local pharmacies.

“The consequences were that I might as well have been snorting coke. The emotional, mental, social and physical anguish was the same!”

In 2015, she went back to rehab. Since then, one of the measures she has taken is to go to pharmacies she used to frequent and personally ask them to never sell any pills to her. “I told them they were never to sell me anything even though I were dying. That helps – although if I wanted I could have them delivered within the next 15 minutes. But I want to stay clean.”

“You only need to know a cool pharmacist,” Mwangi, a 26-year-old university graduate tells me about how to access prescription pills. “You don’t need a prescription! Some of them, kwanza the ones huko downtown, don’t even ask you for one. But if they do, you just tell them you forgot it or something. Weka poker face!”

Mwangi first had a tablet of speed (an amphetamine/stimulant) at a night club in town when he was a second year student. Since then, alcohol and bhang seemed like ‘too much work’. “All you have to do is pop it. No mess, no fuss.” Although he no longer pops speed because he is scared of its adverse effects, “one or two Valiums are not bad to relax. I have trouble sleeping as well as also also they help,” he smiles and shrugs. Mwangi has a regular pharmacist who supplies he and his friends, ‘no questions asked’.

Marijuana mess – By Joan Thatiah

Marijuana goes by many street names in Kenya; bhangi, weed, ndom, kush and gode. It’s accessible but the dealers are cautious. It was easy to get the phone number of a supplier but I had to be ‘vetted’ before this dealer agreed to meet me.

When I finally met him in Umoja Estate in Nairobi, the first thing I noticed was how young he looks. He refused to say his age but from his looks and mannerisms, he is in his 20’s.

“Do you want it pure or mixed?” he finally asked when he was sure I could be trusted.

“Mixed with what?”


“What kind of chemicals?”

“Just chemicals,” he said, waving the questions away.

Davie bakes marijuana laced cookies within the home he shares with his mother. A cookie made from pure marijuana goes for Sh40 per piece. His clients are mostly men and women in their early 20s. “Weed doesn’t know gender. Even corporate women smoke it,” says 28-year old Nelly.

Not very long ago, Nelly was a marijuana seller. Now, she just smokes it to control her bi-polar symptoms. She smokes rolls which she buys for anything between Sh.10 and Sh.150 depending on where she buys them.

So what is it sometimes laced with? “If you buy from the slums, sometimes they put petrol and it’s bad. The more upmarket sellers mix it with cocaine. Cocaine from Brazil is the most pure. When I was a seller, I used a glass of water and bleach to test the purity,” she offers.

Lacing it makes the marijuana more potent such that its effects last longer. The plus for the seller is that users get hooked faster so they keep coming back.

Nelly tells me that it’s easy to tell someone who smokes weed as well and one who doesn’t, something I find very hard to do when I meet 33-year-old Muthoni. Muthoni is beautiful, classy, with a good job in public relations. She doesn’t fit the image I have of a bhang smoker.

She had her first puff 10-years ago at a house party. “I was experimenting, just like I had experimented with alcohol years before,” she says. First it was just a few puffs every other evening, then it was every night. Now, it is a roll every various other night, maybe four times a week.

She prefers to smoke alone; she does not consider it a social activity. Also, because of a bad experience she had, she prefers to prepare the it herself. “I smoked a laced roll once and I almost went crazy. I had hallucinations, and I caused a lot of fracas. Luckily, I was home alone with my best friend,’ she says. Now, her cobbler supplies her with loose marijuana. “It’s cheaper to buy the rolls but sometimes they are not pure,” she says.

“My job can be very stressful. Weed is quite relaxing. If you don’t overdo it, it’s harmless,” she adds.


Doc you beat me to posting that piece by Joan Thatia after i saw it in the nation yesterday. kuna ingine ya Dr Osur if you can find it on reduced sperm count…

opioids are going to take over nairobi very badly …stay tuned

Hizi laced are they at a higher price ama? Juu cocaine huwa expe so weed laced with cocaine si ni higher.
In campus my room mate used to sell weed. Kuna siku nimetoka lab usiku saa tano nimchoka nikaweka simu kwa table icharge nikaenda next room, kurudi simu haiko, kumbe a customer took it. Called my palls na tukawafuata, jamaa akakataa hakuchukua simu, tukainsist hakuna place anaenda hadi simu itoke, saa hizo tumebeba crude weapons. Aliona hapa ni noma akaitoa, immediately alitoa ile kichapo tulimpatia watchmen on patrol ndio walimsaidia. Nilikutana na yeye outside school some weeks later akaniona na kuhepa. That was the last time weed iliuzwa kwa room yangu…

Ion : Bhangi iwe Huru


Aha, umenikumbusha. Let me look for it.


ndio hio

True, hiyo ya cocaine huyo muchamaa ameongeza aromat.



bangiisiwe huru

Hii ni umama wa Kilimani mums Buda.

There will be a huge need in future for drug rehab centers, addiction specialists etc.

The need is already there even today. Sadly, other than the one at Mathare (North Múthaiga?) and perhaps one or two at the coast, there’s very few gov’t owned/ run rehab centers. Shortage ya (mental) health professionals hata usitaje.

It doesn’t help that the law (Narcotics & Psychotropic Substances Control Act) placed the establishment and running of such centres under the then provincial administration rather than under the more natural ministry of health.

Daktari si uanze yako, you have the know-how. :wink: Huge potential to make money and help people.

The capital outlay is immense for sure. There’s potential, yes. However, away from a few towns, very few of them are able to meet the costs themselves (I doubt if NHIF covers the same). That’s why most are run as charities/ not-for-profit organizations.

f means following dont be silly. I dont get notifiations