A claim circulating online and offline among Sierra Leoneans says that smoking a type of Cannabis popularly called ‘Kush’ in local parlance leads to swollen limbs and sores.
Sierra Leone has been struggling with the Cannabis crisis for a few years now, The Guardian and France24 have reported. In its own unique local context, several variations of Cannabis have been concocted using several experimental formulas. ‘Kush,’ as it is commonly known, has had a devastating impact on the country’s youthful population.
Dr Alpha Amadu Jalloh, Sierra Leone’s Senior Psychiatric Specialist at Kissy Psychiatric Hospital, in several public engagements including this one on Epic Radio in July 2023, said the volume of cases he has seen as a result of the Kush intake is alarming in the nation.
Similarly, Dr Mac Jajua, who works at the Connaught Hospital, one of the oldest and biggest government hospital in the country, also said that they have seen an increased number of patients with Kush-related problems show up at the hospital.
A number of other healthcare workers have also expressed similar concerns.
Sore and swellings…
Viral videos and images circulating online have shown victims of ‘Kush’ with sores on their limbs and feet. Some of the victims have also been seen with swollen limbs in addition to the sores, as seen in this viral video posted initially on TikTok and Instagram by a user named: @salonedrips. It was also reposted on Facebook by one Mahawa Bai Kamara Sillah, among other social media users.
The sores and swelling has been directly linked to the intake of Kush by many, including the victims themselves.
But is there any evidence to support this claim?
Smoking of ‘Kush’ leads to swollen limbs and sores on humans.
Kush, according to Dictionary.com, is a variety or strain of the indica subspecies of cannabis plant. It is a synthetic drug, an offshoot from marijuana that originated from the Hindu Kush region. It is produced using a complex chemistry by combining addictive plants and some sedatives.
To understand the effects of Kush, it is important to note that there are different types of Kush and the ingredients that are used in making a wrap of Kush.
Report indicated that scientists have identified over 700 strains of cannabis. A large amount of these strains fall under the designation of being a “Kush”.
When this researcher spoke to Dr Jajua and specifically asked him about whether there is any connection between the sores and swollen limbs found on some Kush smokers, he said the evidence so far is not conclusive.
“We have seen patients come to the hospital with Kush related problems who have shown these signs (swollen limbs and sores) and the general assumption by so many people is that they are caused by Kush.
“However, no study has been done to prove any connection between the two, so I cannot say those assumptions are conclusive in the absence of a scientific study,” Dr Jajua said.
He noted that even for cases that have led to death, the postmortem examination done by the coroner focused mainly on “Cause of death” and not necessarily to understand how Kush chemicals impacted the body.
Although Dr Jajua said there’s no conclusive evidence to show that smoking Kush causes swollen limbs and sores, it has significant effects on human brains, according to Dr Jalloh, one of the country’s leading Psychiatrist.
In August 2023, Dr Jalloh said that 63 per cent of the mental cases they deal with at the nation’s hospitals are related to Kush.
Speaking about other effects, he added that the effect on the brain can be from hallucinations, memory loss to complete psychosis for Kush addicts.
The claim that smoking of ‘Kush’ leads to swollen limbs and sores on its smokers has not been scientifically proven, though experts say it has effect on human brain such as memory loss and psychosis; thus the claim is UNPROVEN, as verifying this needs further research.
* This report was written by Mohamed Jaward Nyallay, Presenter/General Manager at Epic Radio 99.3FM in Sierra Leone under the mentorship of the Africa Facts Network Member, FactCheckHub. Africa Facts is a network of fact-checkers across the continent supported by Africa Check, Africa’s first independent fact-checking organisation.