Kenyan children use inhalants to escape poverty


Clouds of white smoke surround the poor and hungry children who live in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. They are huffing inhalants, usually out of small plastic bottles kept close to their faces, to provide a steady flow of poisonous fumes. The drug of choice is normally a thick industrial glue used for things like shoe repair.

Children can be at risk for inhalant use, but in an impoverished country inhabited by terrorist group Al-Shabaab, its appeal outweighs its dangers. Snorting glue and other inhalants are exceedingly cheap, and the high can last for hours after continuous use. Children may sniff inhalants for several reasons: Access to the substances and lack of education are among other sub-surface details that reveal grimmer truths.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, inhalants slow down brain activity, affect the central nervous system, relieve pain, cause slurred speech, lack of coordination, dizziness, and euphoria.

On the cold slum streets of Nairobi, the country’s capital, inhalants provide a release to the homeless and hungry children. Some of these kids have told reporters that inhaling glue or other chemicals staves hunger pains, as well as the frigid cold outside where they sleep.

But this escape comes at a price. Long-term use of inhalants can cause hallucinations, delusions, vomiting, and drowsiness. Not to mention the myriad physical health risks like liver and kidney damage, nerve damage, delayed cognitive development, and brain damage. Even if youths quit huffing inhalants, they may still not feel hunger due to the side effect of appetite loss and exchange that pain with nausea, sweating, trouble sleeping, and mood swings.

According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 60,000 kids live on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, and almost all of them are addicted to inhalants.

A study from the African Journal of Drug and Alcohol Studies estimated that about 250,000 children sniffed glue in Kenya, and stated that solvent abuse plays a role in maintaining group solidarity on the street. The study also described the conditions of… (continue reading)