By Johannes Marisa
COVID-19 is on the decline in Africa, with the continent recording just less than 13 000 cases on average per day. Reunion tops the list with close to 10 000 cases per day while South Africa records about 1 500 cases per day. COVID-19 mortality in Africa is less than 50 per day, a figure which shows great containment of the deadly virus. Globally, South Korea, Germany and France dominate in terms of daily incidence. While we celebrate the possibility of COVID-19 extinction, the globe is faced with a new calamity in the form of drug abuse.
If drug abuse continues unabated, the next generation faces a grim future. Drug abuse is directly and indirectly responsible for over 750 000 deaths per year with more than 166 000 people dying from drug overdoses. Addiction to tobacco, alcohol, amphetamines and other drugs inflicts a substantial toll on the world, measurable in terms of illnesses, deaths, social and economic costs. According to National Library of Medicine (2019) United States reports, approximately 40 million drug-related illnesses and injuries are recorded each year. The economic burden of addiction is estimated to be more than US$400 billion each year, including healthcare costs, lost productivity and crime. The social costs to families and communities are just unbearable.
Zimbabwe is not spared from drug abuse. Many youths have turned to drug use, while adults have also joined the bandwagon, a situation which has led to an increase in domestic violence, with cases of murder being reported daily. It’s a pity that lives are lost daily while cognitive function is gradually diminished. Drug abuse has been aggravated lately by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic that has left many people stressed.
Schools were closed for a long time while many companies were forced to shut down operations, thus increasing unemployment in the country. It has become fashionable in some locations to use drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, musombo, twumbwa, sodium polyacylate (from diapers), alcohol. The effects are just devastating. Many reasons are given for drug abuse with some pointing fingers at family history, disjointed families, stress, peer pressure, unemployment and ignorance. It is high time the nation stood up against drug abuse if we are to progress because the generational threat is real. No country can develop when the youths are indulging in drugs.
The consequences are dire and many lives are lost unnecessarily. Road traffic accidents occur on a daily basis, one is inclined to think that the drivers will be under the influence of drugs. Depression, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide and suicide are the consequences of drug abuse. Government is worried about drug abuse and Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro requested everyone to play their part if the country is to win the fight against drug abuse.
The lackadaisical approach that we adopt in combating the scourge will backfire on everyone in the country. Our children are facing a godawful future if the drug plague is allowed to flourish. It is imperative that all the stakeholders work together in a bid to nip drug abuse in the bud for the benefit of the nation.
Health education should be enhanced via all means of communication on the effects of drugs on health, society and the nation at large. Mass media campaigns against drug abuse should be rolled out nationally. Mubatirapamwe Trust, a registered organisation based in Hillside, Harare, has social workers who are moving around disseminating information on drug abuse and also identifying victims that need help.
It is a pity that alcohol in Zimbabwe is advertised as an inspirational lifestyle and its consumption is promoted as normal and glamorous of which that is not true.
- Law enforcement agents should clamp down on all drug syndicates and deterrent punishments should be given by the judiciary in order to reduce the supply of the drugs on informal markets. Drug peddlers are causing untold suffering in the country yet they walk scot-free, willy-nilly supplying the addicts with the dangerous drugs.
- Industrialisation is important in order to increase employment rates as many drug addicts claim they have nothing to do hence the urge to resort to drugs. In essence, the economic environment should be improved so that our youths are not rendered superfluous in the communities. Job creation is vital. Youth centres should be established to keep the youths busy through numerous activities which can be sports, trainings or workshops.
- Rehabilitation of the affected people should be done and that calls for the establishment of drug rehabilitation centres which are unfortunately very few in Zimbabwe.Tirivanhu Therapeutic Centre is a rehabilitation centre but is 25 kilometres from Harare. In Kadoma, Mr Jimayi Muduvuri is establishing one such centre to rehabilitate drug abusers and it would be palatable enough if government chips in to establish more of these centres in all provinces and districts. Drug abuse is now a scourge!
It all begins with you. Make sure you shun drug abuse. Your health is of concern to everyone. The scourge is moving like whirlwind. Let us stop drug abuse!