Unga: Silent Drug Turning Successful Youth Into Instant Zombies

  • An undated image of a heroin and a syringe.
    An undated image of a heroin and a syringe.
  • There's a silent pandemic that sweeping across the country like a wildfire, minus the alarm and twice the horror.

    It's lethal, and it strikes a very vulnerable age - early teens - and the youth. This age is adventurous, in the grip of a rebellious phase.

    Its epicentre is the coast but has started creeping upcountry, especially among campus circles. It's now gaining traction in Nairobi.

    This is the powdery drug, coastal street slang - Unga.

    A sample of a syringe and heroin
    A sample of a syringe and heroin

    This drug has wrecked lives, turned upwardly-mobile youth into deplorable zombies in the blink of an eye.

    Unga is heroin, peddled on street corners, and easy to get. It's commercially peddled in form of a powder - with the fine quality akin to the regular glucose powder. Indeed, unscrupulous dealers may add a dash of glucose to make more money on the street.

    It's also baked into a rock (the size of an average Ndengu seed). This is then crushed and ground.

    This drug is versatile - can be smoked in a blunt or a regular cigarette, vaporised on a spoon and inhaled. It can also be rubbed into the gums - if you've spotted beach boy with teeth and gums stained blue, well, you now know.

    Unga is often mistaken for cocaine which is more upmarket. Quite expensive. The reason it has gained traction at the coast is due to its relatively friendly price.

    With just Ksh100, the youth get a dash, or more aptly - a Kete. Kete is the street unit for the dangerous drug. 

    It's common to see several lads pool resources, buy a Kete and share - it's a few milligrams, really. In this case, this powder is mixed and rolled into a blunt. It's then easier to go round even with five or six lads puffing and passing.

    If you've been to the coast and bought an innocent joint off the street, you may have cluelessly used this drug. Weed peddlers are now using Unga to lace their blunts - to hook their clients.

    The worst hit places in Mombasa are Bamburi Mwisho, Shanzu, Kisauni, Tudor, Likoni (Ferry), Mkomani, Mishomoroni. Mtwapa, with her Las Vegas reputation, takes the cake, with an open Unga bazaar in an empty lot behind Sidian Bank.

    Cunning peddlers are enthusiastic with upcountry campus groups on holiday at the coast. they get hooked, and once back in Nairobi they find regular weed bland, and weak. They'll start calling the peddler for shipping services.

    The number of brilliant and enterprising youth whose lives have been ruined is astonishing. Zombies on street corners are a dime a dozen. In a bid to hit the mark, Unga has forced many youth to other vices - snatch and grabbing handbag, stealing expensive household items fro their homes and selling them off for a song.

    Campus students lose interest in school and drop out.

    The rise of street youth gangs? Blame it on Unga.

    Oddly enough, the fight against Unga is a bit subdued. Save for a few NGO's usually run by former addicts and foreign donors, there hasn't been a major sensitization campaign.

    The police, too, aren't keen to arrest users, and peddlers tentatively enjoy immunity, thanks to a faceless cartel.

    In any case, arresting an addict is an exercise in futility. When an addict misses a daily dose, the drug is ruthless. The withdrawal symptoms kick in immediately. There's severe diarrhoea, vomiting, chills and shakes, sweating, and so on.

    The police would rather release than have someone convulse and die under their watch. In some cases, some resident courts have tried sentencing addicts to rehabilitation centres.

    Some addicts work it out, some do not.

    A file image of various types of drugs.
    A file image of various types of drugs.