Drug abuse is a serious threat to public health

Statistics from the Health and Child Welfare ministry show that 45% of all mental health issues are related to drug abuse while 57% of all psychiatric patients are victims of drug misuse as many young people abuse drugs such as marijuana and cough syrups like Histalix and Bron Cleer as well as cocaine

Many deaths have occurred on the globe and some of these are traced to drug abuse. World Health Organisation estimates that in 2019 about 180 000 people lost their lives directly due to drug use disorders while substance use was responsible for 11,8 million deaths in 2017 both directly and indirectly.

Johannes Marisa

What was thought to be a small issue now seems to be creeping everywhere with numerous cases of illnesses, untoward behaviours, suicide, accidents and unnecessary deaths.

The prevalence of drug abuse among young people in Zimbabwe is 57%, a figure which is quite alarming.

If corrective measures are not taken early, I foresee many of our youth falling victim to this medical calamity.

There are so many causes of drug abuse and what is appalling is that the youth from either poor or rich backgrounds are equally affected.

Some of the drug abusers I have met do not even have concrete reasons why they are into such dangerous drugs.

However, there are some who have pin-pointed peer pressure, social isolation, unemployment, poverty and spiritual warfare as factors which drove them to drug abuse.

Lack of family involvement in adolescent health and social affairs seems to be contributing to drug abuse as the youth end up hooking up with bad friends.

The drug abusers can take anything that they think will keep them euphoric or sedated.

Drugs such as cannabis (mbanje), illicit brew such as kachasu, musombodia, broncleeer, cocaine, diazepam, pethidine, morphine, promethazine, are some of the most used in our country.

The effects are devastating with uncountable losses to society. It is sad that the abuse does not seem to be declining, instead, many people are now indulging.

Recently a story of a man from Mhondoro who was complaining bitterly about the behaviour of his son trended on social media.

The man said he had had enough of his son’s wayward behaviour and now suspects he could be insane because of drug abuse.

The most alarming thing is that  a majority of the drug networks are known in the communities we live.

It is high time that action is taken in order to curb such notorious webs that threaten humanity.

Our country cannot move forward if this scourge is not nipped in the bud because the consequences are dire.

If there is a family that claims not have been affected by drug abuse directly or indirectly, that should be a lie as many accidents have occurred, many suicides have been reported, many arrests have been done and uncountable admissions of mental health cases are being recorded daily, which implies that the scourge is widespread.

Cases of organic psychosis are on the rise, thus putting an unnecessary strain on an already over-burdened health delivery system.

The young generation for sure needs help on this issue that is threatening to usurp the potential of our children.

While everyone seems preoccupied with the fight against COVID-19, we should not forget the threat posed by drug abuse.

It is my belief that some of the following measures should be taken in order to stem drug abuse:

Health education is important in order to boost protective factors and eliminate or reduce risk factors.

Programmes can be designed for various ages and be used for individual or group settings.

These programmes can be universal to dwell on factors affecting all children in a given setting like school or community, selective programmes for groups of teens or children who have specific traits and indicated programmes for the youth who have already started drug abuse.

Law enforcement agents should work tirelessly to destroy the drug networks. Some of the drugs that are used are smuggled into the country through our porous borders.

Why are we destroying our youth because of corruption which allows trafficking of drugs that will have long-lasting effects on our people?

We need to guard against drug abuse in our communities. In some areas, the drug webs are known and they move from one place to another willy-nilly without anyone challenging them.

I pray that police react accordingly and take appropriate action. Our justice system should work hand-in-glove with the police.

Social activities should be enhanced in order to keep our youth busy.

Such should include social games like soccer, netball, basketball and many more.

It is prudent that talent identification be done among the youth. Some are potentially great soccer players or athletes but are wasting their talent.

Rehabilitation centres for drug addicts are few in our country and the private sector can play a significant role in the establishment of such centres.

It is difficult for an addict to abruptly stop drug abuse, hence the need for rehabilitation at secluded places.

Countries like South Africa have many of these centres.

We need such institutions in Zimbabwe.

Let us make a concerted effort to annihilate drug abuse.

Tomorrow it is your child who will be accused of rape, theft or murder because of drug abuse!