Gokwe Town Council organized a comprehensive campaign against drug and substance abuse involving stakeholders from various governmental organizations, including the National Junior Councils Association of Zimbabwe represented by Junior Councilors of Gokwe Town, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, and the National AIDS Council of Zimbabwe.
Sharma Gwanzura, the Gokwe Town Junior Councilor, emphasized that drug abuse encompasses a wide range of substances, including illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and hallucinogens, as well as legal substances such as prescription medications, alcohol, and tobacco.
“The reasons why individuals abuse drugs are diverse and may include seeking pleasure, relieving stress or emotional pain, peer pressure, curiosity, or self-medication for underlying mental health issues. The consequences of drug abuse can be severe and impact various aspects of a person’s life. Physically, drug abuse can result in organ damage and cardiovascular.
“Mentally and emotionally, drug abuse can lead to addiction, which is characterized by a compulsive need to use drugs despite negative consequences. Addiction is considered a chronic brain disorder that affects the reward system, motivation, and decision-making processes. It can have a profound impact on relationships, employment, education, and overall quality of life,” Gwanzura explained.
Representatives from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, and the National AIDS Council of Zimbabwe expressed that treatment for drug abuse often involves a combination of approaches. These include detoxification to manage withdrawal symptoms, counseling or therapy to address underlying issues, support groups, and medication-assisted treatment. The goal is to help individuals overcome addiction, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and rebuild their lives.
Madam Mahefu from the Public Service Commission emphasized that the future of the country lies in the hands of the youth, and the government is committed to protecting them from drug and substance abuse. “We say no to drug and substance abuse for everyone. The future of Zimbabwe hinges on the youth, so the government is here to safeguard them from the dangers of drug and substance abuse, ensuring good leadership for tomorrow.
A representative from the Victims-Friendly Unity department highlighted that drug and substance abuse is a significant factor contributing to gender-based violence (GBV). They encouraged community members to report any issues related to GBV for counseling. They also emphasized that GBV is often the root cause of drug and substance abuse and early marriages, as teenagers become depressed and stressed from witnessing ongoing conflicts between their parents.
“Prevention efforts are crucial in addressing drug abuse. They include education and awareness programs, promoting healthy coping strategies, addressing risk factors such as mental health issues and social environments, and implementing policies to regulate the availability and use of drugs. Additionally, counseling and rehabilitation services should be readily available for those affected.
“It is important to note that if you or someone you know is struggling with drug abuse, seeking professional help from healthcare providers, counselors, or addiction specialists is strongly recommended. They can provide guidance, support, and appropriate treatment options based on individual needs,” said the representative.
The campaign was running under the theme “NO to Drug and Substance Abuse in Gokwe Town. TOGETHER WE CAN!!”
“Millions of Zimbabweans, some as young as 12 years old, are suffering from substance abuse and addiction. The government institutions in Gokwe are actively researching the various causes and effects of alcohol and drug abuse, but there is still a long way to go until we fully understand this disease in our community,” said Gokwe Town Council Secretary Alexander Nyandoro.
Health experts and social welfare have been working together to educate the residents of Gokwe about the long and short-term effects of drug and substance abuse. Their aim is to raise awareness and help people understand the dangers associated with using drugs and substances.
“While some may claim to have an ‘addictive personality,’ we cannot definitively confirm this. However, it is true that some individuals are genetically predisposed to developing drug or alcohol abuse problems. This genetic factor may make them more susceptible to developing an addiction, but it doesn’t guarantee it. It’s important to note that substance abuse usually arises from a combination of complex factors, with genetics being just one of them,” explained the experts.
The use of drugs and alcohol can lead to serious long-term health issues, especially when consumed in large quantities or in combination. Dehydration-induced seizures, immune system damage, increased susceptibility to infections, psychotic behavior, and cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attacks and collapsed veins, are some of the dangers associated with substance abuse. Liver overexertion or failure are also possible side effects.
“As you can see, there are many factors at play when it comes to the development of addiction, as well as numerous dangerous side effects. If you suspect that your substance use may be turning into an addiction, or if someone you love is displaying signs of substance abuse disorder, we urge you to contact Sage Clinic today. We offer the resources, care, and treatment needed to prevent the situation from worsening. Substance abuse is a frightening experience, and you should never face it alone. We genuinely care about each of our patients and strive to provide the best care and addiction treatment available,” emphasized the health experts.
A student from Njelele High School shared that some of his peers at the school exhibit signs of intoxication, with marijuana being the most commonly abused drug. He mentioned that their behavior indicates that they are under the influence, often becoming violent even towards teachers and engaging in bullying within the school.
“I have witnessed some of my friends failing their Ordinary Level examinations due to marijuana. It is the most prevalent drug at our school, although other substances also find their way in,” he voiced his concerns.
“According to our research, we have discovered that day scholars are the ones bringing drugs into the school from the outside. As a result, we are planning a large-scale launch where we will introduce a club to ten surrounding schools in an effort to eradicate this problem,” one of the teachers shared during an event.
In a disturbing revelation, a confidential drug user in Gokwe disclosed that he and his friends have resorted to a cheaper alternative for getting high. They add water to the white residue found in used diapers and boil it, creating a greyish substance that they consume.
“After boiling, it forms a semi-solid mixture with a bad smell and taste, but we drink it to achieve a high at a lower cost,” the anonymous individual told this reporter. He further revealed that he has been abusing drugs since his third year of high school, which was six years ago and feels the need for a morning “drink” to boost his energy and confidence when attracting passengers.
Another individual, Amon (not his real name), stated that due to unemployment and numerous challenges, he and his friends have turned to inhaling sodium polyacrylate in their backyards and open spaces in the neighborhood.
“Because we are facing a lot of challenges and are unemployed, we sometimes turn to drinking to forget our problems. However, alcohol doesn’t provide the high we seek. Therefore, we have opted for street drugs. Sadly, even those are becoming expensive, so we have resorted to using cheap diapers,” he said.
Amon was introduced to the practice of drinking diaper residue by a longtime friend, and it has become the favored method of getting high for an increasing number of young Zimbabweans due to its accessibility. Several drug users revealed that sodium polyacrylate, also known as water lock, can be found in new and used diapers, as well as stain removers, bleach products, and certain detergents. It is used as an absorbent for blood on sanitary pads and urine on diapers, dissolving once boiled.
In street lingo, it is referred to as “muto we ma Pampers (juice from Pampers)”. Many youths prefer used diapers as they are cheaper and easier to find. Amon explained, “With the uncleanliness of most illegal solid waste dumping sites, we don’t always scavenge for used ones. Sometimes we have a local vendor who supplies us discreetly to avoid raising eyebrows by purchasing diapers.”
He went on to highlight that unlike dagga, which is abused by many, water lock use remains confined to a small group of individuals who maintain discipline. He emphasized that they are non-violent and don’t engage in theft, but instead work to earn their food. Chinya expressed his intention to maintain his friendship with his supplier, stating that he has been able to maintain this bond for a longer period compared to when he was taking various other drugs.
Since October 2018, the Zimbabwean economy has been in decline, characterized by high inflation, low investor confidence, and a plummeting local currency. These factors have contributed to high levels of unemployment. While there is no readily available data on Zimbabwe’s drug users, anecdotal evidence suggests that a significant portion of the population, over half of whom are under 30 years old, engages in drug abuse.
Takunda Ncube, a sociology student at Midlands State University in Gokwe, emphasized that the prevalent drug abuse among students highlights the lack of social support systems. “As a student, I have witnessed classmates attending lectures while high, and some admit to abusing drugs due to low morals. The state, as the first parent, must address this issue and ensure that people’s needs are catered for.”