Why are we allowing drug abuse to prosper in our country yet we have all the means to contain it? World Health Organisation estimates that in 2019, about 180 000 people lost their precious lives directly due to drug use disorders while substance use was responsible for 11,8 million deaths in 2017 both directly and indirectly.
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. Drug abuse seems to be on the increase with youths being the major champions of the practice. It is a pity that we continue to lose people from this avoidable scourge that needs all of us to stand firm.
I was in Norton recently when I came face to face with the reality of drug abuse. The high density suburbs of Katanga and Ngoni need serious attention because drug peddlers are even arrogant in front of everyone. I was reliably informed that the courts are very lax and lenient when dealing with drug dealers and this thing is impacting negatively on the development of the 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.
Drugs such as Cannabis (mbanje), Kachasu, Musombodhiya, Broncho, cocaine, diazepam, pethidine, morphine and promethazine, among others 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 going downwards, 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, painkillers are everywhere in towns and cities. Mbare sells virtually all hospital drugs that range from diazepam, ketamine, propofol, lorazepam, chlorpromazine, promethazine, morphine, cannabis, some of which 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. 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 public health betrayal. 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 rates in the country. 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 usurp life potential from our children. It is my belief that some of the following measures should be undertaken in order to stem drug abuse:
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Health education: Health 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 programmes can be universal programs 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 programs for the youths who have already started drug abuse.
Law enforcement agents should work tirelessly to destroy the drug networks. Courts should put strict penalties on drug peddlers and the leniency which has been enjoyed till today should never be allowed to prosper anymore. We need to guard against drug abuse in our communities. In some areas, the drug webs are known and the traverse from one end to another willy-nilly without anyone challenging them. We pray that police agents do not get tired in hunting down drug peddlers. Norton Katanga is one good example.
Social 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 merely wasting their talent.
Rehabilitation 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 such as South Africa have many of these that include Houghton House Addiction and Mental Health centres, Harmony clinics, Crossroads Recovery centres and Healing Wings, among others. We need such in Zimbabwe.
Let us all flex our hands to annihilate drug abuse. Tomorrow it is your child who will be accused of rape, theft or murder because of drug abuse!