Health talk: Illicit drug use grossly worrisome

Health & Fitness
Illicit drug use is directly and indirectly responsible for over 750 000 deaths per year with more than 166 000 people dying from drug overdoses.

Dr Johannes Marisa

Covid-19 is generally on the decline with both morbidity and mortality on a downward trend. It is good news for a disease which has decimated more than six million people from the globe. Everyone was affected somehow either through infection or death. That was the misery that Covid-19 inflicted.

Covid-19 mortality in Africa is just 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 remains unabated, the new generation faces a grim future.

Illicit drug use 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 in the world, measurable in terms of illnesses, deaths, social and economic costs.

According to National Library of Medicine (2019), United States of America reports approximately 40 million drug-related illnesses and injuries each year. The economic burden of addiction is estimated at greater than $400 billion each year, including healthcare costs, lost worker productivity and crime. The social costs to families and communities are just unbearable

Zimbabwe is not spared from drug abuse. Many people have turned to drug use and abuse. Adults are also not spared and domestic violence is alarmingly high, with cases of murder being reported daily. It is a pity that lives are lost daily, injuries are occurring daily while cognitive function is gradually depleted.

Drug abuse has been aggravated lately by the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic that has left many people with unbearable stresses of live. Schools were closed for a long time while many companies were forced to close operations thus automatically increasing unemployment in the country. It has become fashionable in some locations to use drugs as cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, musombo, twumbwa, sodium polyacylate (from diapers), alcohol. The effects are just devastating.

Many other reasons are given for drug abuse with some pointing fingers at family history, disjointed families, stress, peer pressure, unemployment, ignorance. It is time the nation stands up against drug abuse if we are to progress because the generational threat is surely unbearable. No country can develop when the youths are indulging in such calamitous drug use.

The consequences are wide and many unnecessary lives are regularly lost. Road traffic accidents are everywhere and one wonders if the drivers will not be under the influence of drugs. Depression, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide and suicide are just unfortunate consequences that have potential to be averted.

Government is equally worried about the drug abuse scourge and the Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro requested everyone to flex their muscles if the country is to win against drug abuse. The lackadaisical approach that we exhibit in combating the scourge will backfire for everyone in the country. Our children are facing a godawful future if the drug plague is allowed to prosper. It is thus imperative that all the stakeholders work together for the benefit of the nation in a bid to avert the drug abuse. Some actions can be taken to alleviate the drug quagmire:

  • Health education should be enhanced via all means of communication about the effects of the 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 Harare, has many social workers who are moving around to disseminate information about drug abuse and also identify 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 25km from Harare.

In Kadoma, 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!

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