CRYSTAL Meth use has increased in Zimbabwe amidst indications of a sharp increase in bed occupancy in mental health institutions due to high use of illicit drugs and substances.

It is estimated that the proportion of young people in Zimbabwe between 16 and 35 could have or are using illicit substances. There is also an increase in the number of admissions in mental health institutions due to illicit substance use.

Wilson Box, the Chief Executive Officer for Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network (ZCLDN) told editors at a sensitisation meeting that the country’s health institutions were currently overwhelmed by drug use induced hospital admissions.

75 percent to 85 percent of bed occupancy in mental health institutions is due to substance use. Drug use in the workplace is also on the increase especially guys who do menial jobs in most of our industries in this country. Lastly, 30 percent of youths in our country are on Crystal Meth or Gukka,” said Box.

However, there are no official statics around the prevalence of drug use in our country since a population size estimate is yet to be done in the country.

“It is only recently where there is a situational analysis to look at drug use in five provinces that is commencing soon and is going to take about two to three weeks. The situational analysis of commonly used drugs in Zimbabwe shows that Marijuana always tops and it is readily available in our country.

“We have got Codeine based substances which are so readily available because you can actually buy them over the counter. And then we have got Crystal Meth, Mutoriro or Gukka Makafela. This is the drug of choice for many including Sex workers and young people.”

He added that illicit brews such as Cocaine have also found their way on the market even though this used to be a drug of the elite.

“Yesteryear cocaine used to be found in affluent suburbs but these you can even get it in Mbare these days. We then have Heroin and domestic substances where young people are boiling diapers to extract the Sodium polycrylate in them. We have got ecstasy, this is normally used at parties by young people.

“We have got prescription drugs like cough mixtures like Histalix and then we have glue especially in street children. There is also a challenge of poly drug use whereby people who are taking drugs actually mix a concoction of drugs and this is also causing problems in our country.”

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report of 2013 estimates that there are 28 million drug users in Africa. Cannabis is the most commonly used drug on the continent with a prevalence rate of 7.5 percent , Cocaine-0.4percent , Opiates ( Prescription drugs – Pain killers) -0.3 percent and Amphematamine type stimulants 0.9 percent.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe does not have public rehab centres and services at available private rehabilitation centres cots an arm and leg. It costs roughly about US$400 per week to stay and get treatment in a rehabilitation centre in Zimbabwe.

The drug masterplan that is being designed in Zimbabwe is an attempt to have public institutions that are cheaper for rehabilitation services.

ZCLDN says they are advocating for the decriminalisation of drug use and push for lesser penalties like community service for those who would have been found on the wrong side of the law. It is estimated that 56 percent and 90 percent of drug users will be imprisoned at some point in their life and one in every five prisoners are being held on drug related charges.

health times