Zimbabwe takes steps  to fight drug abuse

Dr Sacrifice Chirisa Mental Health Matters
Alcohol and substance use disorders contribute significantly to disease burden worldwide, resulting in millions of preventable deaths.

In Zimbabwe, alcohol and substance related disorders are one of the top three diagnoses presenting to mental health services countrywide. These disorders are wreaking havoc in our families, communities, health system and the national economy.

These were the comments by the newly appointed Deputy Director Mental Health Services, in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Chido Rwafa.

With limited access to tertiary medical facilities for addicts in few places like Highlands and Borrowdale’s Halfway House in Harare, there is need to be more aggressive, strategic and intentional in our approach to deal with substances and drug abuses.

There is generally limited access to care with only one in 18 people in Africa requiring treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders getting access to adequate treatment compared to 1 in 6 in more developed countries.

To accomplish this, a taskforce is being set up to look and focus just on this scourge with the aim of coming up with practical recommendations and action plans to stop growing drug abuse in the country.

It is generally known that primary prevention is key in stopping the development of more addicts who will burden families, the Government and the entire healthcare system.

With tertiary care being limited to individual recovery care, I applaud the Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Obadiah Moyo for ensuring and encouraging that addiction be approached from a public health perspective to ensure accessibility of services providers to all. There is need for direct funding of these services if we will withstand and win in the fight over drug abuse.

There are a number of reasons that are leading to an increase in the uptake of drugs among Zimbabweans. Uptake has much to do with peer pressure, stress from joblessness, broken families, emotional and physical abuse among other common drivers of drug abuse.

It is important for our policymakers and parliamentarians to come up with a national drug policy. The media must also play its role to expose the value supply chain of drugs from manufacturers, to smugglers, law enforcers and consumers.

Civil society organisations must also continue to ensure that their research and documentation on drug abuse is evidence-based.

They must also hold consultative dialogue meetings with women, religious leaders and lobby legislators to fight drug abuse.

Dr Sacrifice Chirisa is a psychiatrist at Harare Hospital Psychiatric Unit. He also is a certified life and business coach and secretary general of the Zimbabwe Medical Association.

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