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Editorial Comment: Tough action against drug lords needed

File pic: A person holding drugs

The problem of illicit drugs and substance abuse in Zimbabwe has escalated dramatically and the expulsion of eight students from a top Harare school last week thrust the issue into the limelight.

The students were caught abusing drugs during a school retreat and we can say without hesitation that the incident is only a tip of the iceberg.

In a story carried elsewhere in this publication,  police in Bulawayo revealed that the high density suburbs of Nkulumane and Entumbane are now considered hotspots for drug peddlers and addicts. 

A Research published by the Society for the Study of Addiction titled: Increased substance use among Zimbabwean adolescents and youths during the Covid-19 era: An impending public health disaster notes that of particular concern was the upward trend in drug and substance abuse among adolescents and youths.

The researchers identified glue, broncleer, magemba, cane spirit, marijuana, cocaine and crystal meth as some of the commonly abused substances in Zimbabwe.

They blamed the proliferation of dangerous drugs on the country’s porous borders that made it easy for drug lords to import the drugs from neighbouring countries in huge volumes.

Some of the drugs such as musombodia, a colourless and highly intoxicating drink made from ethanol and embalming powder, are made locally and distributed throughout Zimbabwe.

The country’s high unemployment rates have worsened the problem of substance abuse among young people as they are idle and have limited access to recreational facilities.

In the past, police have launched operations targeted drug peddlers, but only the small fish have been caught in the dragnet.

Petty criminals, who were caught with a few twists of marijuana and a few sachets of crystal meth were arrested during such operations.

However, the people driving the drug cartels, some believed to be linked to influential people in government and the security sector, remain scot free.

Drug users and organisations that deal with addicts know the people that are importing and manufacturing the dangerous substances and using runners to distribute them.

If police were serious about fighting the scourge of drug and substance abuse they could target the leaders of the cartels in order to cut the supply of the dangerous drugs.

Zimbabwe is heading into an unprecedented public health crisis if the drug problem is not tackled head-on.

The country’s leaders must go beyond rhetoric and come up with practical programmes to rescue young people from the vicious cycle of substance abuse.

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