By Elizabeth Sitotombe
KNEES shaking like a reed in a flooded river, chest heaving like a chicken fighting the pain of slaughter, 25-year-old Tanaka (not real name) is the definition of anguish.
The spasms he is experiencing are withdrawal symptoms being experienced after failing to procure the drug that has become a part of him.
Mutoriro or gukamakafella or dombo, to others, is a local name for crystal methamphetamine, a drug that has become the latest menace to society.
It is destroying the lives of thousands of youths in the country.
Many have lost their lives, become school dropouts and ended up neglecting themselves and their families.
Drug traffickers have mercilessly preyed on the youths by ensuring a constant supply of the lethal drug.
And the market for the highly addictive and dangerous drug is growing by the day.
Crystal meth creates a false sense of well-being and energy, making a user push his/her body further than it is meant to go.
The effects of the drug, when wearing off, results in a user experiencing a severe ‘crash’ physically and mentally.
The rising number of youths abusing drugs in the country is worryingly increasing.
Drugs, such as cocaine, are also increasingly being abused.
The drugs are taken in different ways from ingestion to smoking to injecting directly into the blood stream.
Drug abuse tends to alter one’s behaviour as well as habits and may lead to one having mental health challenges.
Time spent interacting with youths in the high density suburb of Mbare was an eye opener.
I conversationally introduced the topic of drug abuse and its effects.
My hairdresser, a 22-year-old man, was more than happy to introduce me to a few young men who were willing to open up in the hope of securing a buck for their next shot.
“Zvoda muchizvinzwira maiguru, ndine shamwari dzangu dzakawanda dzinotorarama nazvo. (You need to hear for yourself, auntie. l have many friends, some who are addicts.) Asi inini handiite izvozvo. (But l don’t do such things),” he said.
Among his friends is Tanaka who appears to be suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
His eyes are glazed and move frantically as though he expects to be attacked at any moment; he has an anxious look on his face and appears to have been in a marathon from the way his chest heaves up and down.
I ask if he is okay and everyone bursts out laughing. They shrug it off and one says: “Nguva yake yemushonga yakwana (It’s time for his medicine).”
Suddenly, Tanaka speaks up, even though he seems to not be up to it: “l need it to live sisi, dai matondikandirawo chifive mari ndainzwa zvirinani.”
Tanaka is among the many substance abusers who go through a roller coaster kind of life, filled with many challenges as they try to sustain their drug habits.
The drugs are clearly expensive for the youths who are mostly unemployed . This has led them to using literally anything they think can give them a high.
According to one of Tanaka’s friends, Broncleer is another option they can use to get high. Bronco, as it is called in street lingo, is a prohibited cough syrup that contains Codein. Taken in high doses, a person becomes almost zombie-like (kustika). However, Codein slows one’s breathing rate and one can stop breathing entirely if overdosed.
The challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic have also fueled the level of drug abuse.
So desperate for a fix are the youths that flourescent light bulbs as well as used baby diapers are becoming a source of substances that intoxicate the youths.
“Kana muine mwana anosvuta monzwa achingoti light ratsva, mupatarisise, rerisina kutsva anenge achitoda kurisvuta.(If you have a child who smokes and he keeps saying the bulb is burnt out, you should make sure because he might be looking for his next fix).”
“It does not end there. Others drink hand saniters or boil it along with crystal particles found in baby diapers to create an intoxicating drink. Others will inject hand sanitisers mixed with dissolved crystal meth.”
Tariro (24) claims she started using drugs due to peer pressure.
“l was a depressed person and it was my friend’s idea that drugs would uplift me and l was at my happiest and care-free when l was high on meth.
“A year later, l regret my decision for I can no longer stay sober. I have even got to an extent of sleeping with Simon, our supplier, because l cannot afford the drugs. I got pregnant in November and l had to terminate. I am in a deep dark hole l cannot get out of. It’s scary but no sooner do l tell myself l am stopping than l want more.”
Abusing drugs has serious consequences; the immune system is weakened by these substances which increases the risk of illness and infection.
Heart conditions, ranging from abnormal heart rates to heart attacks have become a common occurrence among drug abusers as well as developing lung and liver diseases.
Addicts have abdominal pains and nausea which leads to appetite changes and weight loss.
Injection drug users are at risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C due to needle sharing.
The abuse of drugs has also resulted in risky behaviour such as having unprotected sex, driving under the influence and committing heinous crimes while intoxicated.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police has since declared war on drug peddlers.
ZRP Criminal Investigation Department’s drugs and narcotics section launched an operation codenamed ‘No To Crystal Meth’ to stamp out the dangerous abuse.
According to national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, a sizeable number of drug dealers from Mbare, Epworth, Chitungwiza and Mabvuku have been arrested.