RESEARCH has shown that endemic poverty in Zimbabwe, affecting 70% of the population, is a risk factor for drugs and substance use.
BRENNA MATENDERE/ RUVIMBO MUCHENJE
Socio-economic challenges are also linked to increased rates of stress, trauma, and mental health challenges which are all risk factors for substance use.
Research by South Africa’s North West University lecturer Vakai Matutu and Biomedical Research and Training Institute scholar Daniel Mususa titled “Drug and Alcohol Abuse Among Young People in Zimbabwe: A Crisis of Morality or Public Health Problem”, unearthed scientific reasons for the crisis.
The research was conducted in Zimbabwe with the aim of understanding drug and substance abuse among young people in Zimbabwe.
The study focused on the driving forces or push factors for drug and substance abuse among young people, the sources of illicit drugs and substances, prevalence of drug and substance abuse among young people as well as the interventions being implemented to address the problem of drug and substance abuse.
Part of the paper reads: “Drug and substance abuse continues to be on the rise in Zimbabwe. It is more prevalent in urban areas…The key findings indicate that prevalence of drug abuse is at 57% among young people, the most commonly abused drugs and substances are marijuana and alcohol.
“Stress, peer pressure, breakdown of the family support system and limited knowledge about the effects of drug abuse were identified as the major factors that drive substance and drug abuse among the youth.”
The research also found that criminalisation of drugs and substance abuse makes it difficult for young people to seek help when they suffer from the effects of the drug abuse.
“The paper recommends an emphasis on shift from the legal approach to a public health approach in order to address the challenges and complications associated with drug and substance abuse among young people in Zimbabwe,” reads part of the research paper.
This week, Shamva South member of the National Assembly Joseph Mapiki told Parliament that porous borders are to blame for substance abuse by youths in the country.
Mapiki was speaking before Zanu PF MPs after Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda barred opposition CCC MPs from attending six sittings as punishment for protesting his decision to recall 15 opposition legislastors based on a letter from the party’s self-appointed secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu.
“Let me also reiterate that the constitution talks of security, provided by armed forces as well as food security. We also secure our country from poverty and drug abuse. We have a lot of countries that are dumping their drugs on us, some from as far as Asia, because there is easy market for United States dollars in Zimbabwe. We also have drugs coming from countries such as Mexico, Afghanistan and our neighbour Zambia which is notorious for supplying skin lightening creams,” said Mapiki.
In March this year, 27-year-old Davison Gomo was taken into custody at the Robert Mugabe International Airport while in possession of 1.2 kilogrammes of cocaine and 21kgs of crystal meth, both of which were hidden in metal pulleys.
In April a 71-year-old foreign national has been arrested at the Robert Mugabe International Airport while trying to smuggle drugs worth US$3 million.
Ronald Florentius Paes, an Indian national, appeared in court in October 2022 following his arrest at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport for being in possession of 7.3kgs of heroin.
In May, Ghanaian national Frank Adjei was arrested at the same airport after being found in possession of heroin valued at US$7.6 million.
Mapiki urged the government through immigration to be vigilant and flush out drug peddlers.
“I therefore urge the government to come up with stringent laws that bar the use of illicit alcohol and skin lightening creams. Anything with alcohol content above 2% should not be sold over the counter. The sale of an elicit brew popularly know as kambwa at dollar for two, which has 65% alcohol content should not be entertained at all, more so when opaque beer only has 4% and is sold at a dollar each,” said Mapiki.
He added that apart from imported drugs, youths who cannot afford these drugs have improvised to intoxicate themselves.
“We have quite a worrying issue, an issue of concern. The boiling of diapers by the youths who consume water extracted from boiled diapers is dangerous because they will be intoxicated. We have the spinal cord, I do not know what it is called in Shona. The backbone has muscles that enable a person to move and also to see whether the person that is near them is a woman or not. So, if these muscles come into contact with drugs, let us say alcohol content of 2%, the nerves will become loose if the person continually abuses drugs,” he said.
The net effect of such, Mapiki added, is the surge in the number of divorces.
“As a result, if you are to greet that person, it will take them long time to respond as they will merely spend a long time staring at you because the veins would have become loose, as a result they will be malfunctioning. It will only be the next day when the victim of drug abuse will realise that someone was greeting them, so they will now extend their hand in response to the greeting. It can also happen at night that the same veins will not be able to connect when the wife requests for her conjugal rights, so the veins will take longer to function. It may take two days for the veins to properly function. So, as a result, the family becomes disjointed as the man will respond to his wife’s request when the wife would have already gone to Bulawayo to buy some wares. These are the effects of drug abuse; divorce cases are on the increase because men are failing to perform their conjugal duty due to drug abuse,” said Mapiki.
Apart from the high-end drugs from across the borders, young people trying to escape the reality of unemployment and poverty have resorted to abuse of unlikely substances such as baby diapers.
“We have quite a worrying issue, an issue of concern. The boiling of diapers by the youths who consume water extracted from boiled diapers is dangerous because they will be intoxicated,” said Mapiki.
In the mix of substance abuse is the raging debate on whether a ‘health drink”, Kambucha, is a health drink or alcohol.
“There has also been an advent of drinks whose alcohol content is understated and comes from other countries via Zambia as a distribution point. Our customs and excise officials should be vigilant because a few days ago, Zambia gave a communique to the fact that a Kambucha drink which was being sold in Zimbabwe did not have 0.005% alcohol content, but instead had 8.5%. This has led to members of the Marange Apostolic Faith inadvertently drinking alcohol due to this misleading information,” said Mapiki.