With users as young as 9 years old, drug abuse is increasingly becoming a common social problem in Zimbabwe. Its spread has been heavily influenced by factors that include unemployment, lack of recreational infrastructure, media influence and peer pressure.
The most commonly used drugs in Zimbabwe are codeine (taken in the form of Bron Cleer, a cough syrup) and marijuana. The substances are easily available on the streets of most major towns and cities, with evidence of the former scattered everywhere. It is now commonplace to find gnarled, mangled bottles of the cough syrup strewn about on sidewalks. Terr-eeble evidence of a high sector of our population of youths.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted three major issues with this particular problem.
- Firstly, it has showed the depth of the addiction.
Many users of these substances have gone to great lengths to ensure that they are well stocked up on their “fix.” Even at the height of lockdown regulations, dealers were pretty much in business, meeting with clients discreetly. To users, this was an essential service.
- It also led to increased cravings. Theoretically, the business of daily “normal” life preoccupied the minds of many users. So, drug use was only practiced at certain scheduled times. With a reduction of activity, however, more time is spent idle. This particular point takes into consideration students and people in the informal sector.
- Lastly, it has shown in some cases that a major vehicle for the spread of drug use is are social practices like parties. With the drastic reduction of these, some users may have discovered that they are not hooked on the substances after all. A mental revolution therefore occurs, liberating some people from the grips of drug abuse, just as it has done with alcohol for many individuals.
The challenges with drug abuse aren’t challenges that can be solved in a single day, week or fortnight. The people facing them are real people, just like you and me. The effects may be similar, but the underlying causes are diverse, and need to be tackled strategically with love. Curbing drug abuse is a possibility, and together with the state, we can make a difference.
Joseph M. Moyo (Magazine Editor)