MASVINGO- Drug abuse amongst youth in the country has been worrisome and the problem is spreading like a veld fire across the country leaving a lot of young people with mental problems and a broken future.
In Masvingo, areas like Sisk, Aphiri, Rujeko and Mucheke A (Rank) have become the epicentre of drug abuse as youths are excessively abusing substances like crystal meth (mutoriro), broncleer (bronco) and marijuana (mbanje).
A young man in his late teenage stages who requested to be only identified as Tsano said they are taking drugs as a way of escaping reality and troubles.
“Due to idleness we ended up taking drugs to forget our pains, we also want to escape the reality,” he said.
A report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 21 September 2018 in Geneva shows that more than 3 million people died as a result of harmful use of alcohol in 2016. Youths in Masvingo province have been warned against the dangers of drug and substance abuse.
WHO also reports that half of all mental health disorders in adulthood start at age 14, but most cases are undetected and untreated.
Speaking the media recently, Tichakunda Mbengo a psychiatry mental health nurse said drug and substance abuse usually result in socio-economic, physical and psychological negative effects.
“Physical effects of drug abuse include impotence. Most abused substances and drugs cause temporarily prolonged premature ejaculation problems which drastically deteriorates to impotence. They damage neurons and neurotransmitters which are directly important for sexual activities. These substances include stimulants (crystal meth), inhalants (marijuana, cocaine, glue) and depressants (alcohol).
“Economically, youths who abuse drugs usually have a high borrowing rate which forces them into crimes such as robbery and fraud to get money to support the behaviour. Some even sell their valuable assets including clothes to secure money to buy drugs or in exchange for drugs,” said Mbengo.
Mbengo also added that effects of the Covid-19 induced lockdown were intense and were some of the major causes in the surge of drug abuse amongst youths in high-density suburbs popularly known as the Ghetto.
“When Covid-19 came in, the people of Zimbabwe were already in an economic depression and the situation was worsened by the pandemic. The economic restraints include a high unemployment rate. So when the pandemic broke out, youths became so vulnerable simply because they have a poor appraisal of threats or terrifying life situations, hence easily get psychologically traumatized more than their elderly counterparts who have experienced a lot and could overcome certain situations in life,” added Mbengo.
A national drug master plan was introduced in April this year, the master plan aims at reducing reliance and substance abuse in the country.
“Alcohol and substance use-related problems are one of the top three problems seen in mental health services in all 10 provinces,” reads part of the drug master plan document.
Emmanuel Maziti a clinical Psychologist also commented saying family problems could lead to drug abuse and urged young people to seek counsel before it is too late.
“Families who are facing problems of drug and substance abuse among their young people should seek professional help from mental health experts since the result of drug misuse is drug-induced mental problems. Early identification of drug-induced problems and early interventions are better,” said Maziti.
Despite mounting confirmation that drug and substance abuse is on the increase among the youth, less is being done in terms of interventions by the government and other stakeholders to reduce the abuse among the youths.
Research shows that Zimbabwe does not have public rehabilitation centres for those who abuse substances save for public mental health institutions. Masvingo province has Ngomahuru as its public mental health institution.
Various stakeholders have called for an improved and robust campaign against drug abuse especially in ghettos but less is being done to tackle this ever-growing monster.
Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) Masvingo provincial coordinator Tawanda Mafuta said there is a need for collective action to reduce drug abuse and the introduction of legislative tools which target to achieve a drug-free society.
“The increase in drug abuse among youths is being fuelled by lack of parental guidance due to breakdown of the family support system, unemployment, idleness and depression.
“It is important for all stakeholders to contribute towards the establishment of community rehabilitation centres in the province. There is also a need for the improvement of legislation and laws that promote a drug-free society. Updating the national drug master plan and introduction of drug education in all institutions is also an important move that the country should take to avert the problem of substance use disorder among the young people,” said Mafuta.
Mafuta added that ZCC is organizing community dialogues and awareness campaigns across the country with various stakeholders including the youths who are abusing and mostly affected by drug and substance abuse. He also urged youths to empower themselves with knowledge and skills during the lockdowns and avoid indulging in drug abuse.
Research amongst youths revealed that those who inhale mutoriro find it hard to sleep and mostly experience hallucinations (kutsomwa).
Some of the substances that are being abused are smuggled into the country from neighbouring South Africa. A 100ml bottle of Broncleer costs between 4 to US$6 in some of Masvingo’s high-density suburbs.