Cough syrups like BronCleer, Benylin and Histalix are popular particularly among youths who are constantly looking for a new high
By Esinathy Sibanda
DRUG abuse is a growing nuisance in many societies as school and college going youngsters are increasingly becoming addicted.
In addition to frequently abused over-the-counter cough syrups is a rise in the exploitation of illicit substances.
Concern is mounting over the rise in numbers of drug abusers all over the world, which in turn leads to loss of life and increase in crime.
Many no longer have any regard for life with others even willing to kill to get their fix.
Girls have also been caught in the web, with some as young as 12 years reportedly frequenting beerhalls offering sexual favours in exchange for money.
Drug abuse does not necessarily mean using drugs such as cocaine, hallucinogens, cannabis, sedative hypnotics and opiates, but also encompasses prescription medications such as painkillers, sleeping pills, and tranquillisers.
In Zimbabwe, cough syrups like BronCleer, Benylin and Histalix are popular particularly among youths who are constantly looking for a new high.
Benylin is apparently prevalent because of its appeal to youths who do not conform to the usual stereotype of what a typical drug addict looks like.
Many picture a drug addict to be an unemployed, uneducated or troubled person from a broken family but this is not so. Even the most unlikely people are falling victim to drug abuse.
Recent research conducted in Zimbabwe with the aim of understanding drug and substance abuse among young people in Zimbabwe indicated that prevalence of drug abuse is at 57% among young people, the most commonly abused drugs and substances are marijuana and alcohol.
Peer pressure, breakdown of the family support system, limited knowledge about the effects of drug abuse and stress were identified as the major factors that drive substance and drug abuse among the youth.
Youths who use alcohol and other drugs persistently face an array of possible consequences.
At school, drug abuse often results in a lowered commitment to education, declining grades, absenteeism and possibly dropping out of school.
There are also health and safety consequences such as accidental injuries, physical disabilities, disease and possible overdose related to drug abuse.
Youths who use alcohol and other drugs often disengage from school and community activities because of their substance abuse, depriving their peers and communities of the positive contributions they might otherwise make.
Substance abuse also jeopardises many aspects of family life and may result in dysfunctional families.
The financial and emotional toll related to alcohol and drug-related crimes by youths is immense.
The criminalisation of the drug and substance abuse continues to make it difficult for young people to seek help when they suffer from the effects of the drug abuse.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana earlier this month called for the declaration of war on drug abuse which he said was affecting many youths.
He tweeted: “We have to declare a war on drugs. They are frying our young people’s brains. The amount of money some of these young people are spending on these immoral ventures debunks the ‘jobless’ argument. Other young people are into farming, others into mining let’s help the lost ones.”
But, the current rise in drug and alcohol abuse among youths is worrying as there has been a corresponding increase in drug-induced psychosis cases at the country’s hospitals.
Where drug abuse becomes a social phenomenon it leads to mental problems.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Zimbabwean youths have been using prohibited substances on a much larger scale owing to rising unemployment.
Statistics from the Anti-Drug Abuse Association of Zimbabwe indicate that 43 percent of students that were interviewed knew of schoolmates who take drugs.
The Zimbabwe United Nations Association says 65 percent of Zimbabwean youths suffer from mental health due to substance and drug abuse.
Most drug policy specialists have reached the conclusion that the current approach to reducing drug use is a failure.
It argues that state officials have applied a selective release of information in order to frame drug policy as a success.
Therefore, narrow-scoped tactical achievements hide broader strategic and tactical failures, which blocks governmental learning and change in drug policy.
Tighter controls at the border would be useful to help deter importation of abused over the counter drugs.
From a community perspective, in order to restore normalcy, there is need to regulate the sale of drugs such as Broncleer that can be easily abused.
In addition to openly discussing these challenges, communities should also provide guidance and counselling programmes.
Further, the value of recreation and exercise should never be underestimated; this means recreation and exercise help to keep teenagers and youths occupied.
Educational programmes in schools should also help sensitise teenagers on the need to resist drug abuse.
In some communities, the sale of illicit drugs is so common that it is hard to believe it is illegal.
A lot still needs to be done to clean the streets and allow young people to fully explore their potential in life, without the harsh realities of drug abuse.
Esinathy Sibanda is features writer for The Mail Online. Feedback: email@example.com. Cantact her at (263) 77 937 8696.
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