By Moses Rashirai
The influx of a new wave of dangerous drugs known as muti and other illicit substances into our society is a cause for major concern.
The abuse of illicit drugs has taken its toll especially on our youth who are the cornerstone of Zimbabwe’s future and more importantly, our economy.
Zimbabwe’s economy is largely based on the youth who are regarded as the economically active demography. This therefore means, this group constitutes the majority of the country’s working population.
As a result, the economy suffers as labour productivity declines due to illness,truancy and drug-related deaths.
Despite concerted efforts by the government and other stakeholders to address the problem, drug abuse issue seems to be on the increase.
I believe it is now pertinent to treat mental health as a topical issue.It is also important to amplify calls for drug abusers to come forward and get free treatment as a new strategy to fight the issue which is slowly becoming endemic.
It is my understanding that substance use is a public health issue and rogue elements in our society have become innovative, as they mix all sorts of stuff to produce illegal drugs.
Investigations reveal that the broncleer is often the most used solvent in trying to obtain a maximum high which often leads to lethal effects and lives are lost in the process.
Muti a short form of mutiusinazita (a tree without a name) is believed to be an imitation of Chrystalmeth (guka, dombo, mutoriro) as the names suggests. The drug derives its name from the fact that its contents are not known to users.
Furthermore, the drug is not branded and its make-up is known by its creators who are believed to be individuals with a pharmaceutical background.
The drug is believed to be cheaper as compared to other imported drugs such as Chrystal meth and broncleer.
While a gramme of Chrystal meth can be sold for as much as US$5 in Japan area in Sakubva as well as Macgregors, Mutare, the same amount of muti cost as low as US$2 or less sometimes.
Because it is less expensive, readily available and affordable, it is believed to have flooded most high density suburbs in Zimbabwe.
These drugs are said to be highly lethal, some of the drug users are believed to have suffered from severe memory loss, hallucinations and seizures. In some cases, they are believed to trigger suicidal thoughts and even cause suicide.
Studies show youths today are experiencing more and more stress and anxiety than ever before.
As a way to cope with life challenges, they resort to these substances. It is believed that if they take in these substances, they feel a “high” or supposedly boost their energy, improve performance at work or school.
However, these substances are highly addictive and have multiple short term and long term health consequences that include psychotic behavior, seizures or even death due to overdose.
Research further shows that drug abuse contributes to serious problems such as sexually transmitted infections, infertility and cancer.
From the above narratives, it clearly shows that these youngsters are facing a mental health crisis which calls for the responsible authorities to design new ways of dealing with the scourge.
Let everyone of us normalize talking about mental healthevery day, wherever we are, such that it becomes a wakeup call to remind everyone that upon being faced with mental health issues, seeking help is a priority.
Crackdowns on peddlers, apart from muti, several new drugs are being introduced into the streets.A quick look to a story which was published in herald of 24 August 2022, where a drug dealer in Dangamvura, Mutarehad unleashedhis 4vicious dogs to police officers as he tried to evade arrest demonstrates effort and dedication to duty by police officers who are working tirelessly so as to bring the culprits to book.
Moreso, police have over the years intensified crackdowns on these drug peddlers. Crack teams have been set up to clamp down on these drug dealers and abusers.
Most of the culprits especially youth aged 15 to 35 have been arrested in Dangamvura, Sakubva and Chikanga,Mutare among other areas.
Drug possession is a criminal offence according to the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act Chapter 9:23. As such, drug users and dealers force themselves into hiding to evade arrest, in other words, they operate underground and as a result will not seek help for fear of being arrested.
I believe that to win the war, we need to consider the fact that while arresting them is necessary, it is also vital to encourage them to come out and get free mental health treatment.
Walk in mental health centers should be introduced in targeted hot spot areas such that drug abusers will seek help with easy. These centers also help to reduce the stigma of going to see a therapist.
Also online therapist for immediate help should be intensified, for instance a mental health hotline is one way that people can reach out for help at home.
Youths should seek mental health assistance from professionals such as psychologists, counselors or clinical social workers when faced with life challenges rather than resorting to drugs because use of drugs reflects underlying mental issues.
Moses Rashirai is a post graduate student in counseling psychology with the Great Zimbabwe University and is an intern counseling psychologist. He writes here in his personal capacity and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.