Massive youth unemployment blamed for rampant substance abuse

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By Paidashe Mandivengerei

ZIMBABWE’s economic meltdown which has resulted in a very high unemployment rate has perpetuated drug abuse among the youths, local health organisation, FaStep Screening Services has revealed.

While alcohol and drug abuse can be attributed to myriad of factors including peer pressure, depression and anxiety, it is unemployment that has left the young with unproductive time on their hands.

According to a report by the International Council Committee, Zimbabwe has the highest unemployment rate in the Southern African region.

FaStep Screening Services is currently conducting free drug tests and counselling in Milton Park, Harare.

The substance abuse awareness programme, conducted in conjunction with Eyekim Medical and Free From Addictions Trust, is running from the 20th to the 31st of December.

Speaking to Wednesday, FaStep Screening Services CEO, Cuthbert Chiromo said the programme was aimed at reducing road accidents this festive season.

“Mainly we want to cover the free drug testing and counselling campaign in light of the road fatalities during the festive season and other vices so that citizens get assistance,” he said.

In a statement released recently, the medical body said drugs were taken by male youths mainly for escapism.

“In Zimbabwe, these vices are mostly prevalent among male youths aged between 17 and 28 years, attributed to high intake of drugs due to depression, peer pressure, anxiety and unemployment.

“The economic situation in Zimbabwe has left a rather large percentile of Zimbabwean youths unemployed.

“This means a lot of young people in Zimbabwe have a lot of unproductive time on their hands which, due to the lack of recreational facilities and activities, youths become re-creative with drugs.

“The psychological burden of not having a job and not being able to provide for the family paired with boredom could force the young women and men of this generation to partake in substance abuse in an attempt to escape reality.”

If drug abuse is not addressed urgently, more cases will be recorded.

“The Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the types of drugs commonly detected in medium to low income patients are cannabis (mbanje), codeine related drugs in the form of cough mixtures such as broncleer as well as prescription drugs like pethidine, diazepam and stopayne.

“For more affluent drug abusers, the likelihood to come across cocaine, heroin, mandrax, pethidine and prescription drugs like Ritalin, a drug that is used for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), are higher.

“Young people are more vulnerable and if there is no anti-drug education/campaign awareness, early detection, counselling and rehabilitative care services, drug abuse may continue on an upward trajectory,” the statement reads.