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Illegal Substance Use Takes Devastating Toll on Gwanda Youth

According to research, sixty percent of mental health admissions are due to substance and drug abuse and of those, 80% of them are between 16 and 35 years of age. Image by Newsday

As the fight against drug abuse intensifies, in Gwanda the devastating impact of illegal substance on youth is becoming increasingly apparent.
BY MELODY MPANDE | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | MAR 29, 2023

GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) — It is a typical morning in Jahunda, Gwanda where a steady flow of unappealing young men in their 20s and early 30s roam around the streets begging for money to buy drugs to quench their addiction.
Susan Dube* spends most of her time hanging around with this gang.  
“My buddies make sure I'm supplied always…my eyes become clearer when I'm high,” says Dube giggling away.
The need to finance her drug use reinforces her dependency and involvement with the gang.
But drug abuse has made Dube vulnerable to sexual violations as she is unable to protect herself.

“I usually have no control of what happens when l get high. I even do not know the father of my daughter.”
Susan Dube*, who has lost her memory to drugs

An investigation by The Citizen Bulletin revealed that rampant drug abuse has mentally destroyed and devastated youths in Gwanda.
The level of drug abuse by youths is negatively impacting the development of future generations, says Gwanda Residents Association representative Wellington Nare.
“We are losing our future generation to mental health problems due to drug abuse,” says Nare.

In Gwanda, The Citizen Bulletin observed that the most abused drugs are mbanje, crystal methamphetamine, cough syrups such as BronCleer (bronco) and an illicit alcohol brew composed of diluted ethanol or methanol

A study on the link between substance abuse and mental health shows that abusing substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine can cause prolonged psychotic reactions.
Sixty percent of mental health admissions are due to substance abuse and of those, 80% of them are between 16 and 35 years of age, according to a research on substance use and co-occurring mental disorders by National Institute of Mental Health.

“Individuals who experience a substance use disorder during their lives may also experience a co-occurring mental disorder and vice versa.”
Brighton Mufakwadziya, Ministry of Health and Child Care National Mental Health Occupational Therapist

Apart from mental health challenges, research on effects of smoking drugs shows that lungs can be damaged by any drug that is smoked, causing diseases like emphysema, lung cancer, and chronic bronchitis.

Lung cancer caused by smoking drugs. Image by Fetrinka

Opioids depress breathing, which can worsen asthma.

Many drugs can cause long-term kidney damage, including kidney failure, which is life threatening.
Gwanda among other mining communities in Matabeleland has become a victim of an influx of drug peddlers.
With joblessness owing to the poor performance of the economy, many are idle and see no economic opportunity.
For some, that leads to problems with alcohol and drugs.
Reports say youths are also susceptible to peer pressure and can easily gain access to drugs.
“We have a very serious crisis,” says Gwanda Mayor, Njabulo Siziba.
Siziba says police must intensify their operations against drug dealers and abusers.
He says law enforcement agents have to take stern measures against those who sell drugs to young people and school going children.
“There has to be stiffer penalties or sentences to the suppliers of those drugs,” says Siziba.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration says it is reviewing existing laws to punish offenders with stiffer sentences.

Zimbabwe launched an anti-drug campaign in February, 2023.

According to police, at-least 3000 people have been arrested since police launched the ongoing national operation, code named “No to illicit drugs and substances.”

Arthur Maphosa, a headmaster at Gwanda High School told parents at an end of year 2022 general meeting that substance abuse was rife at the school.
“We have, among many things, confiscated alcohol, cigarettes, mbanje, matches and okapi-knives from pupils,” the head of the school said at the time.

ALSO READ: San Children In Matabeleland Struggle To Stay In School

Matabeleland South police spokesperson Loveness Mangena, says police are also conducting awareness campaigns against drug abuse.
“We arrest those found in possession, selling or smoking drugs,” says Mangena.
“I appeal to the public to report bases which sell drugs. By doing so we can minimize cases of drug abuse and mental health challenges.”

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