Using social media to fight drug abuse

Drug Abuse in Zimbabwe

SUBSTANCE abuse among Zimbabwean youth is on the increase, especially in recent years. According to government and public health experts, the spike in cases of drug abuse increased significantly during the Covid-19 era.

The world has since set aside the month of October as the Substance Abuse Awareness Month to raise awareness on the dangers of drug abuse and addiction.

The public is heavily influenced by the power of television and social  media.

Public health officials' initial optimism about the positive influence of mass media on society led to skepticism. That has now been replaced by an understanding of the important role media can play.

The government has led the anti-drug mass media campaigns concentrating on preventing, reducing, or stopping the illicit drug use of young people.

Commonly used substances in Zimbabwe include glue, broncleer, cane sprit, marijuana, codeine and methamphetamine (crystal meth).  Using Social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter can raise awareness among the youths.

Organisations and governments can build a robust substance abuse awareness campaign by reaching out to millions through social media.

 Millions of youths have access to new technologies, hence social media is an effective tool to educate the young generation.  While social media platforms can be a source of inaccurate information, or even harmful exposure to substance abuse, if harnessed properly, it can be helpful.

Some Zimbabweans have turned to social media platforms to get support from others living with an addiction.

Through online platforms, others can read useful content that can help fight drug abuse. One of the most popular mediums for information dissemination today is video content on various social media platforms where celebrities and authorities can raise awareness.

Videos are more engaging channels of communication, and they are popular with the Zimbabwe audience judging by the high number of views on the social media outlets.  I urge those who want to create substance abuse awareness to use videos. With an increased use of smartphones, use of visual content on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram can be effective as it can reach millions of viewers.

In Zimbabwe, almost everyone with a phone is a broadcaster.

This means that substance abuse campaigns can start with the content creator and interviewees.  Governments and organisations need to learn from what local businesses have done on social media.

Many companies are running successful campaigns on social media. Zimbabwe is witnessing an increase in drug use among its youthful population. There is an urgent need to find a lasting solution to end drug abuse. One of the ways is through raising awareness using social media tools.

Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd. He is the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a  division of Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers.

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