Crystal meth drug abuse survivor recounts horrors
TAMAR Mundirwira (20) dashes to the door and passionately embraces her visitors with a heartfelt smile.
As other patients at a local rehabilitation centre in Harare look on, Tamar (pictured) talkatively narrates how she has made new friends, why her troublesome tooth had to be extracted and how she misses home.
Now two weeks into rehabilitation, Tamar looks happier and poised to beat her addiction to crystal meth (mutoriro). But according to her carers, the journey ahead will be long and arduous.
“It has been tough, but I think I am tougher. What does not kill you makes you strong and you want to change, you have to be strong. When the road gets tougher, you change the shoes and the road. So, I have changed my shoes,” she passionately speaks to The NewsHawks.
The news crew tracked down the 20-year-old following last week’s exposé on how crystal meth has destroyed Zimbabwean urban youths.
Known scientifically as methamphetamine, crystal meth is a highly addictive stimulant and users love the drug for its powerful euphoric qualities. Addictive on first smoke, the drug has become a crippling vice for the country’s youths who take the illegal substance to escape from daily troubles.
Also known as mutoriro, dombo, buwe, guka makafela in street lingo, the infamous drug has destroyed lives across the country’s townships.
After four years of drug abuse, Tamar sees a way out and is determined to be freed from the deadly vice that has killed many in Zimbabwe.
But two weeks into her mandatory six-week detoxification and rehabilitation period, Tamar admits that: “It has been tough”.
“But it is nice that daily I see my condition getting better and I am happier,” she says.
Tamar narrates how she felt like abandoning detoxification in the first week due to insatiable cravings for the drug.
“I used to feel strong and had cravings during my first days here. I felt like escaping but not anymore. I told myself that change begins with me. What I want is change for myself,” she said.
With mood swings visibly at play, Tamar pleads to be set free from the facility.
“This place is hell,” she shouts.
“They have given me six weeks here, but I feel like I have detoxed successfully because I was already off mutoriro for two weeks before I came here. I am begging them with my life because this will end up affecting me,” Tamar pleads.
She immediately composes herself and vows to complete the rehabilitation.
“I want to change for myself. This drug is destroying my brain cells, I literally become just like a zombie. I want to change for my country and women, those girls who are being abused in those drug houses,” she says.
“I would not want to be back here anymore. The only time you will find me back here, I will be helping people.”
As consumption of illicit drugs has risen, the mental health of addicts has taken a severe battering. Six out of 10 patients admitted to mental institutions suffer drug-related issues. About 30% are hooked on drugs in Zimbabwe, according to narcotic experts.
But the destruction of young people and families has not prompted any decisive action from the government. Zimbabwe does not have public rehabilitation centres, with the available private facilities charging fees that are too prohibitive for poor families.
According to psychiatrists, crystal meth users often suffer from mood swings, hallucinations or “kutsomwa” in street lingo, while prolonged use also causes irritability and anxiety.
Although Tamar is still struggling with the after-effects of drug abuse, she is determined to beat the addiction.
“I do not want this drug in my body anymore.”
She quotes the scriptures: “The Bible says my body is the temple of the Lord, but why am I abusing the temple of the Lord with drugs? It becomes the devil’s temple and not the Lord’s. So, I am done with these drugs. I want to be a better person. I want to be an advocate for other people. A person who can stand for others. This drug has destroyed us.
“It used to be fun, but now it is hurting me. I cannot do anything meaningful with my life anymore because of this drug. This drug has led many young people into petty crime and robbery just to fund this habit. We are not working, so the only way is stealing,” she added.
Tamar narrated how she got hooked to other drugs and eventually crystal meth after she left home at the tender age of 16. She moved and stayed with a friend in Chitungwiza after her mother re-married.
Her friend, a drug user, introduced Tamar to all forms of illicit drugs like mbanje, codeine (ngoma) and other narcotics.
She recounted horrendous experiences, including gang rape, verbal abuse, and near-death experiences at the hands drug peddlers.
“Sometimes, I would be given a fix and get raped afterwards or gang raped. My friend was also gang raped. It is painful, this must stop and should not continue anymore,” a teary Tamar said.
“These drug lords are using young girls to attract customers, but most of them end up being abused sexually and do not get anything out of it. It is high time we stop this. Someone was stabbed 15 times while I watched in my house. At some point, they were using my house as a drug house. Because of a mutoriro (crystal meth) straw, someone was stabbed 15 times. The person is wanted by the police and could not report. He survived, but it was the toughest thing I have faced in life. I still have nasty flashbacks.”
Young girls addicted to crystal meth have been subjected to sexual abuse in townships where illicit drug use has become rampant.
“This drug has led many young girls into early pregnancies because girls end up sleeping with men just for a fix. Which next generation are we creating if we are indulging in drugs? We are killing ourselves. We are destroying Zimbabwe ourselves,” Tamar said passionately.
“We are being abused by these guys. After detox, I swear that I will help other girls. I really need to work on getting many girls out of this vicious cycle of drugs.”
Now on the mend, Tamar is compiling a journal detailing her journey. She prays often.
“I spend my day writing in my diary, thinking, and just sleeping because I do not want to talk a lot. But I am praying more,” Tamar said.
“Most of the patients were discharged but I was left here because of my situation. I just encouraged myself that I should be strong.”
She remains grateful to a local non-governmental organisation, Mubatirapamwe, for showing her a new path.
“It was tough for me to get out of drugs. I thank God for bringing Auntie Savanna in my life. I think she was sent by God. I needed the help,” the 20-year-old said.
An articulate and intelligent young woman, Tamar dreams of becoming a lawyer one day. But until her dream is fulfilled, Tamar must walk a long and arduous journey to recovery. Luckily, she has good Samaritans willing to help.