The abuse of drugs and prescription medicines is on the increase on the streets of Harare owing to their cheap prices and easy availability. Prominent among these are codeine containing cough syrups like Broncleer and Histalix D and drugs like cocaine, which have found favour among Zimbabweans between the ages of 17 and 40. Harare Central Hospital Chief Executive Officer Peggy Zvavamwe confirmed that drug related cases comprise the second most frequently admitted patients.
Most of these drugs have hallucinogenic properties and have chemical compositions that are effective in sedation and pain relief. Other drugs, which come in the form of colour-coded pills, are Propoxyphene (also known as PP), Diphenhydramine (DPH) which has a hypnotic effect, and the anticonvulsant drug Phenobarbital which is prescribed for epilepsy patients. Other drugs also include Maragado, a prescription medicine for psychiatric patients. These have become popular among city dwellers because they induce a high very quickly if taken above the stipulated doses.
According to one source these drugs are also used by youths who are mostly unemployed and are a favourite because they are easily accessible on the streets of the city. Their empty containers can be seen strewn on pavements and junk-heaps, a development which he said is worrisome. Unemployment amongst the youth has precipitated drug abuse as it provides an escape from boredom and a temporary reprieve from depression.
“Most of these drugs are procured from South Africa and Zambia and are smuggled into the country by cross border traders. They find a ready market because the drugs are cheap, with most of the pills costing between one and two rand,” said one youth. This has proved to be a lucrative business for the smugglers. Asked why some youths prefer these drugs one addict said that they get one high quicker than alcohol and are readily available. In Zimbabwe one needs a prescription in order to purchase them. “They are popular among youths because most of them give a combination of various effects,” he said. In most instances these can be taken in concoctions and mixtures so as to achieve their desired effect. In the process, marijuana can also be taken,” he added.
Zvavamwe pointed out that drug abuse has a very detrimental impact on the overall health of users. She warned that those tempted to take drugs should abstain because drugs have very harmful health effects, including respiratory complications and mental illnesses.
She also called on those who want to quit drugs to approach psychologists, rehabilitation technicians and therapists at Harare Hospital for counselling. Zvavamwe said that plans are underway at the Ministry of Health to provide better facilities and education around the matter.
For assistance with drug addiction, contact Narcotics Anonymous: 0772 200888 | Jan 0772 268177 | Duncan 0772 572894. Meetings are held Tue, Wed, Fri @ Highlands Presbyterian Church, 112 Enterprise Road, Highlands.