Blessing Karubwa, Features Reporter
IT is almost mid-morning and Vusa Mabhena* (35) is struggling to stand. His squint eyes are neither looking sharp nor dreary, they are bloody red.
The air around him is not fresh. It is putrefied. Hardly able to stand, he shabbily slumps in the corner of the family house, injuring himself in the process.
He mumbles inaudibly to himself as he searches his pockets for a khaki cigarette stump. He is neither careful nor concerned about its dangers to his body.
He has scars all over the body to show for his drunken stupor falls and yet doesn’t seem too eager to repent.
He has no social life outside of his drug suppliers. He doesn’t have a girlfriend too.
Mabhena has been taking drugs since 2004 when he was in Form Two at Siwazi Secondary School in Gwanda district in Matabeleland South.
“I started taking mbanje because my colleagues used to tell me that I cannot participate in athletics when sober so I ended up becoming an addict.
Initially I could skip a day without smoking but later on I become addicted. I can no longer spend more than two hours without a pull of it,” he said.
Mabhena is now hooked to many different drugs which are in the market.
He says he also takes Chimbwa (which are just like freezits) and mutoriro (crystal methamphetamine).
Mabhena says his peers also engage in cocaine, glue, ginger cake, cupcakes or muffins and popcorns (amaputi) with marijuana.
According to him, drugs make an individual divorce themselves from things that do not concern them and that is all he seems to know and like.
He believes in the spirituality of marijuana where there is a belief that some take it under the instruction of their ancestors.
A member of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA), Mr David Nduna Mlilo, confirmed that there are some spirits which demand that people take marijuana.
“Some spirits demand that people should smoke marijuana and those spirit mediums usually don’t make people become insane because they don’t make them addicts.
However, we have seen a number of young people becoming mentally affected as they will be abusing drugs under the lie that they are being instructed to do so by their ancestors,” he said.
Psychologist, Miss Jacqueline Nkomo, believes the increasing number of street kids since 2018 shows that drug trends were high in Bulawayo.
She discouraged giving street kids money every time emphasising that some of them were not street kids but merely drug addicts.
“If street kids ask for money and you give them, most of the time they just buy drugs so they will be trying to solve their addiction. Some are drug addicts because they have suffered from stress during the course of their lives,” she said.
She added that people have got a lot of issues besides financial challenges and that had made some individuals to resort to drugs with the belief that drugs have the ability to reduce stress.
A 16-year-old Form Three drop-out from Gwabalanda who spoke on condition of anonymity said she used to take muffins with marijuana although at times she could put marijuana in a bottle drink.
The pupil became pregnant when she went to a party with her colleagues at night and dropped out of school in June this year.
She said when she started abusing drugs, she couldn’t control her sexual feelings and that resulted in her getting pregnant.
The teenager said her mother left to South Africa while she was still young and she was left under the care of her grandmother but life was very difficult as she could not afford the basics.
“My mother left me when I was in Grade Three.
My grandmother who is a widow was poor. We hardly got food and my grandmother would talk ill of me because my mother was not supporting us.
This stressed me so I decided to find something that could make me happy and forget about my grandmother’s words, little did I know I was worsening the situation.
“I was a virgin before I started taking drugs but from the moment I started taking marijuana I started having feelings for boys so I became pregnant. I look at it with a lot of regret now and urge girls out there to desist from abusing drugs,” she said.
A clinical psychologist at Hospital Prisons and Care Ministries International, Mrs Barbara Silumbu, said there were a number of reasons why people take drugs.
“Reasons are many among them absentee parents (diaspora). Covid-19 and accompanying lockdowns contributed to youngsters becoming redundant when formal education was interrupted,” she said.
A Form Four student at Emakhandeni Secondary School says he was misled into taking drugs under the impression that he would not fail Mathematics.
He said he had been sniffing glue when he was in Form One but it did not help him improve. It has only helped him become confidently dull.
Founder of Solutions Counselling, Mrs Charity Maruva, dismissed the idea that drugs open up one’s academic mind.
She said such kids become over confident and start misbehaving.
“Drug abusers may feel like their surroundings are strange and unreal, or one may actually suffer from drug-induced psychosis, seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there,” said Mrs Maruva.
Head of psychology department at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare, Dr Naeem Farzana, said most drug abusers were in the age range of 15 to 19.
“Most people in Zimbabwe who abuse drugs are at the age of 15 to 19. Most of them take crystal meth, weed or marijuana.
There is an increase because of poverty, unemployment, peer pressure and sometimes family related issues,” she said.
She discouraged the use of drugs and dismissed as a fallacy that drugs relieve stress.
“People that are using drugs shouldn’t think that they are relieving their stress, they may take away the stress for a short time but in the long term they actually cause more harm than good, so from a medical point of view we don’t encourage abuse of drugs for any reason,” said Dr Farzana.
She says it is worrying that one in every three people who are seeking psychological assistance, is diagnosed with substance abuse.
Acting Chief Executive Officer for Mpilo Central Hospital, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, said drugs were not only hazardous to human health, they also damage mental health which results in unnecessary and strange behaviour to those who take them.
“Drugs are harmful to your health, and health is not only physical, we also look at mental health. They are a cause of suicide, murders and so forth, so we strongly discourage people from abusing drugs,” said Prof Ngwenya.
The Government is seized with the drug abuse menace with reports indicating that a 96-bed capacity ward at Ingutsheni Central Hospital in Bulawayo is filled with mostly youths exhibiting psychotic or violent behaviour.
Experts say that behaviour is mainly attributed to drug abuse and it compounds the revelation that more than 60 percent of admissions into the country’s mental health institutions are from substance abuse with 80 percent of those admissions in the 16 and 40 age group. — @TichaKarubwa