TAKING a short tour of Harare’s Waterfalls Mainway Meadows suburb, one hardly fails to come across groups of youths milling around shopping centres or pointlessly roaming along dusty streets.

Day and night the youths wind time passing each other illicit drugs and alcohol concoctions popularly known as mutoriro, tumbwa and guka. Such other hard drugs as crystal methamphetamine (crystal meth) are also not uncommon in the medium-density suburb as Zimbabwe battles to contain one of the deadliest social scourges to afflict the southern African nation this millennium characterised by an unprecedented surge in juvenile mental disorders caused by massive drug and alcohol abuse.

Chief culprit for this social blight is an unrelenting economic crisis that has seen the country’s unemployment rate persistently hover unsustainably well above 80%. Idleness has largely been blamed for the ever rising drug and alcohol abuse cases among youths who have run out of choices in a tanking economy.

With a large pool of busy bodies, drug peddlers and sellers of illicit alcohol are making brisk business and care little about the long-term detrimental effects of their trade to both the youths and country.

Cognisant that their clients have little to no sources of income, the drug dealers sell their illicit merchandise at ridiculously low prices and make a profit by pushing volumes, making it a real tough call for Zimbabwe to win the war against drugs any time soon.

If an addict is really short and desperate for a sniff or gulp, the dealers are so generous that they can lend the client for later payment.

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Always financially well-oiled, the drug dealers have even included law enforcement agents on their payroll to guarantee their continued stay in business, making it double difficult for the country to overcome the drug and illicit alcohol abuse scourge confronting it.

And it has become a stray dog’s life for the hapless jobless youths of the country.

“Once you take crystal meth, you can go for two days without eating. To some it gives them a lot of energy to do physical jobs, while to others it makes them freeze like roots,” former victim of the drug, Obey Kasiyandima confessed. “The drug also intensifies the desire of sexual gratification.”

Luckily; he escaped the snare after his parents convinced him that doing drugs was not good.

Regularly attending church services and carefully choosing his friends helped him to completely get rid of the habit.

Waterfalls’ ward 23 councillor Stanley Manyenga said: “I am working with the police to fight drug and substance abuse through awareness campaigns and trying to put the suppliers in jail.

Also I am doing pool and soccer tournaments for the youths to keep them busy and this should help them to stop taking drugs because they will have something to do. Manyenga’s efforts, however, seem a drop in an ocean of rampant drug and substance abuse across the country blighted by widespread unemployment, hunger and poverty.

It may now need a Herculean political will and effort to arrest the menace.