By Benhilda Chademana
I SPENT the better part of the festive season in the city of Kings and Queens (Bulawayo).
A tragedy is unfolding there.
This writer witnessed 17 youths from Entumbane Suburb being rushed to Ingutsheni Central Hospital last week after overdosing on crystal methamphetamine (meth).
Ingutsheni, just like Parirenyatwa Hospital Annex, a Psychiatric Unit under the Department of Mental Health in Harare, specialises in mental health care services.
Crystal meth, also known as mutoriro, guka or dombo is an illegal drug that has become the latest menace to society.
It is sadly ‘taking over’, not only in Bulawayo but in many parts of the country.
Besides crystal meth, cocaine, broncleer and marijuana are among the most commonly abused drugs in the country.
The number of schoolchildren, being admitted to medical institutions, suffering from mental health problems related to drug and substance abuse is worrisome.
Many of our youths have lost their lives, become school dropouts or ended up neglecting themselves.
It is also a pity that there are many adults out there who are neglecting their families due to drug and substance abuse.
It is said crystal meth creates a false sense of well-being and bursts of energy, making a user push his/her body further than it is meant to go .
The effects of the drug results in one experiencing a severe physical and mental crash.
What appears to be ‘deep-thinking’ is nothing but lack of co-ordination and disorientation, which is one of the side effects of drug abuse — kusticker in street lingo.
However, addicts are not aware that abusing drugs has serious consequences as they (drugs) have a serious negative impact on the brain — drugs literally fry the brain.
Apparently, 65 percent of mental health cases in the country are related to drug abuse, according to researches by medical experts.
Drugs have a serious negative impact on the brain.
Once hooked, there are long-term brain changes which make it a challenge for addicts to stay drug-free.
According to health experts, stopping drug use doesn’t immediately return the brain to normal.
Some drugs have toxic effects that can kill neurons — and most of these cells will not be replaced.
While changes to connections between neurons in the brain may not be permanent, some last for months.
Some researchers suggest the changes may even last for years or for life.
Below are some drugs that are being abused in the country and their effects:
Cannabis (marijuana, weed, dope, skunk)
Short-term: People smoke cannabis to relax and get high, but it can make it difficult to remember things, even if they have only just happened.
It can cause anxiety attacks or feelings of paranoia.
If you use a lot of cannabis regularly, you’re putting yourself at risk of some temporary problems, such as confusion or delusions.
Long-term: Cannabis might trigger long-term mental health problems, including psychosis, schizophrenia and depression, among others.
Evidence suggest that cannabis users from families with a history of mental health problems may be particularly susceptible to these symptoms.
Short-term: Steroids pump up muscle mass, but can bring on ‘road rage’, with users becoming physically violent and sexually abusive.
Steroids can make sleep difficult and cause confusion, depression and paranoia.
Long-term: They can lead to psychological dependence, where people become convinced they cannot perform well without the drug.
Heroin (smack, diamorphine)
Short-term: Heroin and other opiates slow down the body’s functions and stop both physical and emotional pain.
Users find they need to take more and more heroin to get the same effect, or even feel ‘normal’.
Taking a lot of heroin can lead to a coma or even death.
Long-term: Heroin is psychologically and physically highly addictive.
The withdrawal from heroin is really unpleasant.
Long-term heroin users are often depressed because of their overall lifestyle.
Coming off and staying off heroin can be very difficult.
Cocaine and crack cocaine
Short-term: Cocaine is a stimulant that makes you feel high, confident and full of energy, but this can turn into feelings of anxiety, panic and paranoia.
Users of cocaine can end up feeling tired and depressed.
Long-term: Giving up cocaine and crack can be mentally distressing and physically difficult for dependent users.
Long-term use can worsen existing mental health problems and lead to depression, anxiety and paranoia.
No doubt most of the drugs being abused by youths are dangerous and expensive.
Most of the youths eventually turn to theft in order to sustain their habits.
Many steal property from their homes in order to sell or literally exchange for drugs.
It is, therefore, imperative for parents, teachers and other responsible authorities to create environments that do not promote drugs and alcohol abuse.
It is also crucial to ensure that those supplying and selling the drugs are tracked down and arrested.
Their illegal businesses are booming at the expense of young bright lives!
Yes, there were operations and campaigns conducted by the ZRP, targeting drug and substance abuse among youths, but more needs to be done.
It’s time we should be seeing hundreds of culprits being brought to book.
A whole generation cannot just go to waste.