WHY are we allowing illegal drug trade to thrive in our country yet we have all the means to contain it?
The World Health Organisation estimates that in 2019, about 180 000 people lost their precious lives directly due to drug use disorders, while substance abuse was directly and indirectly responsible for 11,8 million deaths in 2017.
What was thought to be a small issue, now seems to be creeping everywhere with numerous cases of illnesses, untoward behaviours, suicides, accidents and unnecessary deaths. Matutu (2019) states that the prevalence of drug abuse among the young people in Zimbabwe is 57%, a figure which is quite alarming. If measures are not taken early, I foresee many of our youths being in trouble from this medical calamity.
In the small fishing town of Norton, 40km west of Harare, serious attention is needed, especially in the high-density suburb of Katanga where drug peddlers are now so publicly arrogant that they have become law unto themselves.
I was reliably informed that the courts are very lenient when dealing with drug dealers and this is, unfortunately, impacting negatively on the development of our society. Police can arrest, but the peddlers are released on the same day. China does not tolerate drug peddlers, the punishment is just unbearable and it is thus prudent to set strict penalties if the scourge is to be successfully fought.
The drug abusers can access anything that they think will keep them euphoric or sedated. Such drugs as cannabis (mbanje), kachasu, musombodhiya, broncleer, cocaine, diazepam, pethidine, morphine and 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 abating, instead, many people are now caught in the melee.
The uncontrolled availability of drugs in the streets is disturbing with all types of drugs being sold to the public without prescription. Antibiotics, hypnotics, sedatives and painkillers are everywhere in towns and cities. In Mbare, Harare’s oldest and most densely populated high-density suburb, virtually all hospital drugs that range from diazepam, ketamine, propofol, lorazepam, chlorpromazine, promethazine, morphine and cannabis are on sale. Some of the drugs are stubborn in substance-induced psychosis.
The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) should regulate the importation, distribution and sale of drugs, making sure that all drugs are registered in Zimbabwe. Pharmacists face stiff penalties if found in possession of unregistered or expired drugs. That is a very good policy, but hitting only pharmacies that are caught on the wrong side of the law while ignoring drug peddlers who openly sell drugs in the streets is tantamount to betrayal of the highest order. Why do drug peddlers openly sell drugs in front of law enforcement agents who are supposed to arrest such dangerous criminals that have potential to contribute to increased mortality rate in the country?
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Cases of organic psychosis are on the rise, thus putting an unnecessary strain on an already-burdened health delivery system. The young generation for sure needs help on this monstrous issue that is threatening to cut short the lives of our children. It is my belief that some of the following measures should be undertaken in order to stem drug abuse:
lHealth education is important in order to boost protective factors and eliminate or reduce risk factors. Programmes can be designed for various ages and can be used for individual or group settings. These can be universal programmes 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 factors and indicated programmes for the youths who have already started drug abuse.
lLaw enforcement agents should work tirelessly to destroy the drug networks. Courts should put in place strict penalties on drug peddlers and they should never be lenient on these people who are destroying our society. We need to guard against drug abuse in our communities. In some areas, the drug webs are known and they traverse from one end to another willy-nilly without anyone challenging them. We pray that the police do not tire in hunting down drug peddlers.
lSocial activities should be enhanced in order to keep youths busy. Such will include social games like soccer, netball, basketball and many more. It is prudent that talent identification be done from amongst these youths. Some are great soccer players or athletes, but are now wasting their talent by abusing drugs.
lRehabilitation centres for drug addicts are quite 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 that include Houghton House Addiction and Mental Health centres, Harmony clinics, Crossroads Recovery centres and Healing Wings. We need such in Zimbabwe. Let us all flex our hands to annihilate drug abuse. Tomorrow it could be your child who will be accused of rape, theft or murder because of drug abuse.