Sierra Leone declares a national emergency following a sharp rise in the use of the deadly synthetic drug kush.

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio has declared a national emergency on substance abuse in response to calls for his government to crack down on the growing use of kush, a cheap and sometimes deadly synthetic drug.

The highly addictive mix of marijuana, fentanyl and tramadol has caused hundreds of deaths and psychiatrically damaged scores of users since it first appeared in Sierra Leone around four years ago, according to the government. There are no official figures on the exact number of deaths.

Bio declared a national emergency in a late-night address on Thursday, citing “the destructive consequences of kush on our country’s very foundation: our young people.”

He stated that a national task force on substance abuse, comprised of members from all sectors of society and overseen by a presidential advisory team, would be established to carry out a five-step strategy for a drug-free future.

Kush’s low price makes it accessible to disillusioned, unemployed youth in Sierra Leone, where approximately 25% of the population lives in poverty. The drug is also found in Liberia, a neighbouring West African

Local communities have called on the government to address the problem and assist them in dealing with drug users.

Abdul Jalloh, the head of Sierra Leone’s only psychiatric hospital, hailed Bio’s declaration as a critical step towards addressing drug use.

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