Drug abuse negatively impacting on youth development

Many of these youths, who are supposed to be in school, are being pushed into drugs as they seek to drown their sorrows.

LEVELS of drug abuse in Zimbabwe are skyrocketing on a yearly basis which is a cause for concern. Drug abuse is now happening in daylight such that one would assume it is now legal.

Seeing the country’s youths succumbing to drugs instead of positively participating in Zimbabwe’s development makes us wonder what the future holds. The minimum age of employment in Zimbabwe is 16 years, yet the age range mostly affected by drug abuse is between 10 and 35 years. How can Zimbabwe develop under such circumstances?

In order to find solutions, one should look at the causes or what influences youths to engage in drug and substance abuse. One such cause is that the unrelenting economic crisis that has greatly affected Zimbabwe has increased poverty, leading in a lot of school dropouts who end up aimlessly roaming around the streets and villages.

Many of these youths, who are supposed to be in school, are being pushed into drugs as they seek to drown their sorrows. In interviews on the streets of Sakubva, Mutare, many youths mentioned that they consume drugs so as to forget their situations.

Some of the people with substance use disorder have been pushed into consuming drugs because of what they see on social media, so they become curious and end up experimenting with drugs and become hooked.

Peer pressure also greatly contributes towards the consumption of drugs. There are some people who live on the streets who actually have homes, but they can’t go back home because they will not be able to access drugs due to strict rules. The common saying among those people is: “It all started as an experiment with my friends then it grew into an addiction.”

These youths are no longer able to live without drugs, they see no life without drugs and their numbers on the streets increase by the day. It is now very hard to deal with these youths because they tell you that they have rights, so they can leave their homes and come back as they please. If you try to put them back in line by disciplining them, they call it abuse. There are many cases of children who have reported their parents to the police for emotional and physical abuse. How do we then deal with such issues? How do we help these youths who claim to know their rights? Food for thought!

There are various substances that are being consumed by drug abusers, which include glue, Bron Cleer, mangemba, cane spirit, marijuana, codeine, methamphetamine, bulbs and polyacrylate extracted from diapers and sanitary pads. Some of these drugs are corruptly distributed from pharmacies. Drugs that are supposed to be found in hospitals, pharmacies and other formal channels are now found on the streets being sold by unlicensed people. In other words, corruption in the health sector has greatly contributed to substance abuse.

The chaos and criminal activities that take place after drug intake is worrisome. After the use of drugs, people tend to be violent and they  engage in unlawful acts like robbery and rape. They also get so hyperactive that they easily start fights among themselves or with other people, leading to injuries.

There are a lot of gender-based violence incidents caused by drug abuse. Some people lose control after consuming drugs and end up being violent to their spouses and children. Drugs have destroyed a lot of families, relatives grieve for their loved ones as they watch them deteriorate due to drug abuse.

It is heart-breaking seeing how drugs are affecting individuals’ physical and mental health. Some common mental disorders associated with drug abuse include manic depression, anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, to name a few. Hospitals like Ingutsheni Central Hospital in Bulawayo are flooding with mentally-ill patients whose condition was largely triggered by drug abuse.

These mental disorders unfortunately get in the way of one’s ability to function properly, to handle life’s difficulties and relate to others; they make one paranoid. Without the right support and treatment, overcoming substance abuse will be a huge battle that will be difficult to surmount.

A lot needs to be done for Zimbabwe to get back on its feet and develop. Corruption and drug abuse need to be eradicated in our society. We suggest that the government should establish more rehabilitation centres throughout the country in order to accommodate the many hapless and hopeless cases on our streets and help them get over their addictions. Government should, in the meantime, be creating a conducive environment for economic growth that helps in creating jobs to accommodate our youths who are now ruining their lives partaking in drugs.

Most non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are focusing more on women and girls empowerment, leaving out men and boys. We suggest that NGOs should also focus on men and boys. Men and boys are the largest group of people involved in drug abuse, which means they need urgent help.

The government should provide free education, especially for people who are in the marginalised areas of Zimbabwe.

Government should enact and enforce strict laws against drug abuse.

Last but not least, it is important to spread awareness and to educate people, both young and old, on the consequences of drug abuse, motivate and enlighten them on skills they can use to earn a living. Let’s help fight drug abuse, let’s save lives and let’s build a better society.

Simelokuhle Ngwenya and Susan Rutendo Machingura are international relations students at Africa University in Mutare

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