Rashes, Reddened Eyes & Other Health Implications of Muguka - Graphical Analysis

Muguka plantation.
Muguka plantation.

The raging Muguka ban debate has elicited mixed reactions from both Kenyans and politicians from both factions with a section of Kenyans from Central Kenya expressing immense dissatisfaction.

Muguka - a variant of khat that functions the same as miraa, has drawn the attention of two opposing factions: consumers most of whom are residents of coastal regions of Mombasa, Kilifi, and Taita Taveta and producers from Central counties of Embu and its neighbourhood. 

Reports indicate that the consumption of Muguka has led to a rising number of youths who are abusing Muguka and other substances.

The abuse of Muguka has been blamed for the alarming cases of admissions at mental health and rehabilitation centres in the coastal region.

In a phone conversation with Kenyans.co.ke on Monday, Bamburi Member of County Assembly, Patrick Mbelle poised that the debate on Muguka was a wake-up call to eradicate some of the harmful stimulants in the coastal region.

“Effects of Muguka are so adverse, majority of the county assembly members are for the ban,” Mbelle noted.

At the time this story was in written, the MCA had taken seven individuals to a psychiatric hospital for severe mental disorder treatment. These cases included those with bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and others.

A collage photo of muguka (left) and miraa (right).
A collage photo of muguka (left) and miraa (right).
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In the recent incidences, occasioned by the use of Muguka, a local woman was attacked and chopped severally with a machete by his son.

“I have an instance of one woman who was chopped severally by a son. Upon investigations, we established that the boy was using Muguka.” 

In what is seen as a divergent view, a section of residents of Embu took to the streets expressing their grievances on the loss they would incur if a ban on Muguka was actualized.

Data from NACADA, 2022, reveals that the majority of residents aged 15 - 65 years in North Eastern are aware of Muguka and its implications. This was a spontaneous awareness rate of 54.7 per cent. The western region however recorded a lower number of residents aware of Muguka and its implications.

Nationally, Muguka is the second-placed psychoactive substance in terms of awareness after Miraa.


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Scientific research, however, supersedes profits and losses as sources of livelihoods. The country’s view of events should be pegged on the implication of the substance instead of selfish gains or interests at the expense of someone’s health conditions.

A report by the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse Authority (NACADA), 2019, titled, Supply And Demand Dynamics Of Miraa/Muguka In Selected Production And Consumption Regions of Kenya tabled a shared health effect of Khat (Miraa) and Muguka. Among these effects include lack of sleep and the ability to keep a person alert for an extended period.

Some users, however, argue that certain tasks require a person to be awake, hence khat or Muguka comes in handy to curtail sleep.

From a health point of view, insomnia may not be a positive attribute for good health and affects an individual's general physical and mental well-being. Again, the kind of alertness that accrues from the use of khat and Muguka is largely induced and hence may be distorted alertness.

According to the report, chewing miraa and Muguka is also associated with tooth decay and discolouration. The user’s teeth turn yellowish or dark in colour. Continued use over many years often leads to eventual loss of teeth

These types of stimulants are also linked with loss of appetite. If the person starts chewing before eating, it is highly unlikely that such a person will have an appetite for food once done with chewing.

It is possibly due to loss of appetite that many users are linked with loss of weight. However, loss of weight could also stem from lack of sleep as a result of chewing Muguka for long hours and thus failure to get sufficient rest. 

An emerging perceived fear among users, according to this report, is the issue of reddening of lips due to the increased use of chemicals in spraying. Some farmers harvest Muguka before the chemical used to spray loses potency

Other effects include body rashes and red eyes as detailed in a part of this report

“There are two perceived health effects that are associated with muguka. Users of muguka reported body rashes in some cases as well as eyes turning red,” read part of the NACADA report.

Muguka contains the active ingredients cathine and cathinone which are chemicals listed as psychotropic substances as listed in several conventions in which Kenya has ratified. This is according to the United Nations on Drugs and Crime (1971), in a report on Convention on Psychotropic Substances. 

These conventions include the Single Narcotic Convention of 1061 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, The Convention of Psychotropic Substance of 1971, the United Nations Convention against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (I), and (II) of 1988.

 A psychotropic substance, according to the United Nations, is a drug substance that affects how the brain works and causes changes in mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings, or behaviour.

 The UNDC Convention report further detailed that in Kenya, older people report a higher use of established substances such as khat in the form of Muguka and cannabis (bhang and hashish), as such, they are reported to be used more frequently among those aged 18–24.

 Conversely, among the general population, khat and cannabis remain the two most commonly used substances, with the highest lifetime and past-year use among those aged 25–35.

A photo collage of Miraa (left) and Muguka.
A photo collage of Miraa (left) and Muguka.
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