The lesser Evil

Whenever one decides to quit drinking, it takes a firm decision, often made individually. This comes around when you put your foot down and declare enough is enough. More often than not, the decision is brought about by the severity of the repercussions of drinking one has suffered, either cumulative or one major occurrence that becomes the proverbial stroke that broke Carmel’s back. The ugly side of drinking shows itself while the pleasures shy away and it dawns on you that you are wading in the murk. Ankle deep, knee deep or neck deep but sinking nonetheless. It is at this point in life that one decides to turn a new leaf. Out of all the different approaches, one can take to manage or do away with the addiction in totality, one outstanding trend has caught my attention. A scenario of the ends justifying the means. Though not the most honest means of travel, it takes you there nonetheless.

While in the early stages of alcoholism, one desires the pleasurable effects, but during later stages, one blindly embraces or painfully tries to cope with negative attributes. The turning point may come at any drinking stage. This could happen during the early stage or onset of middle stage when you claim to be in control but realize you are slowly losing your grip and negative effects have begun to catch up. Thoughts of drinking and alcohol become predominant and the amount of time and money allocated to drinking increases. The turning point may also come during the advanced stages when you continuously suffer from the adverse effects of addiction. At this point, all signs point to the exit, the means being death or quitting. Some who are weak in the sense of straining to free themselves from the tangled mess alcohol has landed them in or due to sheer unwillingness to make that sacrifice, succumb to helplessness, believing all is lost and only death can put an end to their misery with a considerable number attempting to hasten that sorry ending through suicide. To some, death is not an option yet they keep drinking, hoping that somehow things will change for the better and control will be regained as quitting seems to be a pipe dream and it’s urgency gets downplayed.

In times like this, when the opportunity of a viable option presents itself, chances are that it will be gladly accepted. The idea of something that will give almost similar desired effects, a different kind of high, with mild negative effects, then it is considered worth trying, a long-awaited form of deliverance.
The so-called second generation concoctions rose in popularity and became rife with Central Province suffering the blunt of it. This caused a public outcry as a generation was drinking its way to oblivion, Sexually starved wives left to cater for all family needs, additional special needs as some husbands or male family members had lost sight, mothers moaning the death of their sons and many more atrocities family and loved ones faced. It took the president’s intervention for a crackdown and ban on the sale of this poison.

A radial flow of events followed, with a good number of misfits flowing towards one pirate. There was a gradual but exponential rise in the use of khat. The popular type was the twigs (miraa) but the leaves (muguka) rose in popularity owing to its affordability and potency. The effects of chewing these narcotic leaves include; heightened alertness, concentration, calmness, and composure, numbs the urge to drink alcohol or increases one’s tolerance if you drink, on a sexual note, there is increased pleasure and performance, with the negatives being confusion, time consumption as it takes hours of chewing to achieve that high so more often than not it calls for accompanying substances, tobacco being the most common in the form of cigarettes, snuff or chewed.
, a tainted image due to the stereotype associated with chewing khat and with prolonged use, comes teeth decay and eventual loss as well as low libido and impotence.The narcotic leaves over time lead to their own form of dependency.

Comparing khat to alcohol, a thing I personally find far-fetched simply because the only common factors are that both give you a high and put your health and personal development at risk but the in betweens are worlds apart. Similar to comparing sailing to driving as both are means of transportation with death being the worst possible ending in both, but the experience, challenges, and risks differ. The negative effects of khat seem trifle as they are not outright outcomes but more of risk factors. One is in control of his/ her actions, less expensive habit to maintain, no motor discordance hence no obvious indication of intoxication ( other than the wide-eyed effect due to heightened concentration ) and one can easily regain sobriety by simply spitting it out.

There is the reduced urge to drink but if it so happens, it inhibits the body’s uptake of alcohol suppressing intoxication and maintains self-control. That means no impaired judgment, no slur in speech, no staggering, no uncontrolled spending, full awareness of your surrounding without blackouts or lacking the ability to form memories as witnessed in excessive consumption of alcohol. The downside is that too much of khat or kathenol in your system will lead to hallucinations coupled with loss of sleep and when taken together with large amounts of alcohol, and the khat high is taken out of the equation, simply by spitting it out, the suppressed alcohol takes instant effect. One shoots from a buzz to extreme intoxication, most probably passing out as you will have exceeded your body’s threshold by far. The idea of khat giving you a high without the undesirable effects of alcohol and having the tenet that drinking will have little or no effect, the urge to drink is minimal, hence gradually reduces cravings and dependency.

The ubiquitous scenes of people staggering in broad daylight and passing out in trenches or on roadsides reduced with the increased preference of khat over cheap liquor. The common goal being getting high within legal confines and perceived social norms, potency and price being the beam on the scale, negative effects bearing the weight, the lack thereof as is the case here, sways the popularity of choice in favor of khat.

As a result, a good number of recovering alcoholics have used khat to break free from the chains of alcohol addiction, as some have successfully quit drinking, while others have regained control to a commendable level. Has this been a result of using khat as a substitute or to supplement alcohol?. Arguably, Yes is the most logical and conclusive answer.

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