The subject of addiction and drug abuse is something which is very topical. We are living in a society which is volatile and highly drugged up with a number of youth being the predominant victims to the scourge of drug abuse.
Our streets in the context of Zimbabwe are flooded by all sorts of drugs like crystal meth or guka, cocaine, Nyaope, cough mixture and Njengu or Mutoriro which are brands of homemade alcohol that have an effect on health.
As we begin the year, it is of importance that artistes become the voice that brings to light the scourge of drug abuse which is killing the youth as the future of the nation. Among the artistes too, drug abuse remains something which is rampant and has destroyed the careers of many.
A drug is any chemical that alters the physical or mental functioning of an individual. When drugs are used to cure illnesses, prevent diseases or improve health condition it is known as drug use.
When drugs are used without any medical basis, in an amount, frequency and manner which damages the physical and mental functioning of an individual, it is known as drug abuse.
Drug abuse leads to the development of tolerance and dependence. That is, in short, it leads to addiction. Tolerance is the condition whereby the user requires more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect. Smaller quantities of the drug which were sufficient earlier are no longer enough and the user has to increase the amount.
Dependence can be both psychological and physical. With psychological dependence the user is preoccupied with the drug and experiences a constant craving for it.
With physical dependence the user's body becomes fully dependent on the drug. As a result of this, the person can function normally only if the drug is present in the body. If drug use is abruptly stopped, withdrawal symptoms occur. These withdrawal symptoms vary, depending on the type, amount and duration of drug abuse.
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Artistes also have to be aware of the different types of drugs that are abused by individuals within the society. They are classified into different types and this can be of use in the process of intervention so as to curb the use of drugs. In as much an important aspect of being an edutainer is to also show knowledge of how these different drugs are classified and their specific effects which can also be of help in the fight against the prevalence of drug abuse.
Narcotics are drugs which share the common property of having pain-relieving characteristics. Their common effects are short-lived state of euphoria, drowsiness, apathy, reduced heart rate and blood pressure, constipation and impairment or mental processes.
Long-term effects include severe constipation, moodiness, contracted pupils, lung problems, liver damage and pus formation.
Stimulants are drugs which speed up the Central Nervous System (CNS). Common effects are euphoria, increased self-confidence, feeling of abundant energy, increase in motor activity and speech, and decreased appetite, dryness of mouth and papillary dilation.
Long-term effects include sleep problems, mood swings, poor appetite, and sexual problems such as impotence. Chronic users may develop amphetamine psychosis with hallucinations and paranoid thoughts. Common stimulants include cocaine and amphetamines.
Hallucinogens are drugs which alter emotions, perceptions and mental processes. Their use generally produces hallucinations.
Common main effects are mood alterations, distorted sense of time, intense vision, melding of two senses (e.g. hearing colours), ideas which seem silly to normal people, attention fluctuations. Self-destructive behaviour is common among people who take hallucinogens.
While looking at alcoholism, one needs to distinguish between a social drinker and an alcoholic and understand the difference between the two.
This is so because as artistes we perform at bars and weddings were people drink. But in essence it is also importance that artistes and everyone is able to distinguish between the different types of drinkers.
A social drinker is one who drinks the way his social group permits. He never oversteps the unwritten, unspoken boundaries; but he clearly understands these boundaries. Thus his ingestion of alcohol does not cause any problems in his life.
An alcoholic is one who continues to drink, despite continuing problems in one or many areas of his life. He is unable to take stock of his problems and stop drinking totally.
He tries, but never succeeds on a long term basis. This dependence on alcohol can be both physical and psychological.
In physical dependence, the body has so adopted itself to the presence of alcohol that withdrawal symptoms occur when use is stopped. Symptoms can vary from nervousness, sleep disturbances or disorientation and sometimes to death.
In psychological dependence, alcohol becomes central to the persons thoughts and emotions and this is manifested in a chronic craving or compulsion to drink alcohol.
These are some of the chronic effects we see among different people within our community.
The artiste thus has to be able interrogate the root cause of the issues that surround the increase in the use and the abuse of drugs.
An issue of concern is of how unemployment, idleness coupled with depression are aggravators of drug abuse. Another challenge is with regard to the influence of movies and music videos where drugs are glorified and seen as the in thing to do which leads to youths and even young kids being addicted to drugs.
What has to be done is the active involvement of artistes as critical stakeholders in drug abuse advocacy. The message of anti-drug abuse advocacy has to actually go viral and bee made an everyday topic.
An important matter of note is with regard for the need for the enforcement of drug suppression laws which can be of use in reducing the precedence of drug abuse.
In the light of this artistes have to use the power of music and poetry as the tools that can bring awareness on the dangers and the negatives of drug abuse.
In line with this, short films can also be produced to bring attention to this issue of drug use and abuse and how it impacts on the family and the community.
This can be done in partnership with different organisations that seek to advocate for more awareness on issues that orient to drug abuse as multi-stakeholder involved remains something of importance.
On a parting shot, addiction affects the entire individual physically, emotionally and psychologically. Hence any intervention or treatment should be aimed at all these areas. The immediate goal should be to help the user to abstain while simultaneously improving his functioning in other areas.
The family may very often expect the addict to stop immediately. This may not always be possible. As already mentioned, substance abuse also adversely affects the whole family system. The aim of intervention should also be the recognition of family symptoms and effective resolution of these symptoms.
It is our mandate to fight against the prevalence of drug abuse and the voice of the artists has to amplify the message of advocating against drug abuse.
- Raymond Millagre Langa is musician, poet, orator, independent researcher and founder of Indebo edutainment Trust. You can follow on Face book @Millagre Ray Langa, on Twitter you can follow on #Millagre Langa, email. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.