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Illicit drugs activist Savanna Madamombe


Treat substance abuse as emergency



THE government has proposed to align its Drug and Substance Abuse Programme with the Civil Protection Unit (CPU), as experts recommend the setting up of mental healthcare institutions at community or primary care level, The NewsHawks has learnt.


The CPU is mandated with coordinating activities involving prevention and mitigation of disaster risks, preparedness planning, timely early warning and response to rehabilitate affected elements.

Substance abuse has continued to escalate in the country, with six out of 10 patients admitted to mental institutions suffering from drug-related issues, according to narcotic experts.

In a post-cabinet briefing this week, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Drug and Substance Abuse said that police have arrested a total of 468 offenders, 402 being male and 66 female.

Out of the 468 offenders, 36 were suppliers who were referred to court, whilst 432 were drug users and consumers who paid deposit fines. Raids were conducted during the period under review and drugs were confiscated.

The taskforce said a total of four drug dens had been destroyed in three provinces, two in Harare metropolitan areas of Mbare and Epworth, one in central Gweru, and another in Mashonaland West.

“Cabinet has resolved that the Drug and Substance Abuse Programme should be aligned to the Civil Protection Unit which is comprehensive; that the resource mobilisation committee be chaired by the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works and utilise resource mobilisation structures in Civil Protection,” reads the briefing.

“That the command centre be activated in order to fully support the programme in its day-to-day operation; and that parliamentarians be integrated in Drug and Substance programming at Sub-National structures.”

A psychologist from the Zimbabwe Psychology Association (ZPA) Noreen Dari said there is a need for mental healthcare at primary level in the healthcare system.

“Steps by the government are essential where we are trying to address the problem that has already occurred. More can be done, especially looking at the preventative framework. What can we do to prevent these things?” said Dari, a former president of the ZPA.

“It is multi-sectoral in terms of identifying what are the major drivers for substance abuse. What is it that is leading people there? And for us coming from a mental health space, we would like to improve access to mental healthcare.

“So this is just that on a normal day, someone is struggling with their mental health. How easily can they easily access support and care? So, sometimes absence of that care and support will sometimes end up aggravating the situation. Can more be done? Yes! And one of the most important things is setting up healthcare at a very primary level in terms of the health systems.

Cabinet said the Liquor Licensing Board has been conducting inspections across the country, a total of 244 bottle stores, 197 bars, 90 nightclubs and 145 other outlets monitored for compliance purposes.

“Cabinet wishes to inform the nation that 198 (184 male and 14 female) patients received drug rehabilitation services inclusive of treatment, medical detoxification and rehabilitationservices to all referred and walk-in clients,” reads the briefing. 

Illicit drugs activist Savannah Madamombe says the drug problem has mainly been driven by the country’s economic crisis which has been instilling trauma, a situation that has been worsened by a fragile primary healthcare system.

“The drugs issue is a mental health issue, and there many causes to it. There are several reasons why people take drugs to do what they call soothing themselves, or to do what essentially is treating themselves. So, sometimes people will be dealing with anxiety and they self-medicate, but they do that using drugs, beer and everything,” Madamombe says.

“So, if people are using weed, it is because there is a certain thing they are trying to deal with through weed, because it is described as a depressant, in drug terms. Weed is said to slow down the brain. If it does so, the person feels better if there are traumas they are dealing with. So, sometimes when people are facing anxiety, they take these drugs to boost energy.

“The reason for trauma may be that they may have been abandoned at a very young age. But, essentially, what that does is that it brings a sense of abandonment. Those children end up not being calm. Why are the children abandoned? It is because of the economy which is not working. Because if it was working, parents would have been there living with their children in Zimbabwe. They would be able to go and come back.”

Madamombe said the problem has also been worsened by neglect.

“But a lot of children have been left without oversight of adults, because the parents are leaving the country in search for work. Even in the event that the parent manages to relocate their children, they end up having challenges because they would have been uprooted from wherever they are into a very different society without enough support. So, the base of the problem is essentially being dragged back to the state of the nation,” she said. 

“The state of the nation is not stable. We are finding a lot of people going through a lot of trauma brought about by idleness. Our primary healthcare is in shambles. Even issues that would have been dealt with from the source, there is none of that in our primary healthcare. If a person goes to the clinic, there should be certain indicators which would help patients get help, but there is nothing like that at primary level, and it is very essential.”

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