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War on illegal drugs still on, more efforts needed

CONCERTED efforts are needed to prevent illicit drugs from entering the country because the vice has negative effects on the nation’s economy and development.

Drug addiction is a serious scourge that does not recognise geographical boundaries and currently afflicting nations at alarming rate. It is important to involve the youths in the fight against drugs and building the economy as they constitute about 34 per cent of the country’s population.

To realise this, the government should empower the youth through education and empowerment. On the education system, the government has introduced a free education policy and was planning to establish Vocational Training Centres (VTC) in each district.

We recognise efforts by the government to transform the country into a middle income economy status towards industrialization by 2025 which will create employment for the youth. It was high time the youth were treated as change makers.

The youths get involved in drugs due to various reasons including peer pressure, curiosity, wanting to be different, rioting from the system and also due to escape behaviour, that is running away from problems. Most drug abusers are reported to have glue with them, possess large paper bags, handkerchiefs, and hypodermic syringes.

The effects in terms of problems and/or dangers of drug abuse are highlighted as brain damage, behavioural disorders, inability to reason and low academic performance.

Addiction to drugs is a vice that an individual can try to get away with given the right environment like rehabilitation centres. For many, it has worked quite well for them while others have fallen in the same traps right after they get back into the outside world, and have access to their suppliers again.

Dr Hamza Mugula, the Bukoba Municipal Doctor in-Charge appealed to youths to participate in income generating activities, instead of wasting time loitering and sitting idly also noting that about 42 drug addicts were currently undergoing counselling and treatment at Mugeza Rehabilitation Centre.

In collaboration with other stakeholders, we established a poultry project in Muleba District and a tree planting project in Missenyi District, where some of the addicted youth go regularly to get knowledge on how they can start their own projects,…this approach has shown positive results.

Sellers of drugs, just like any other sellers, always want their merchandise to sell-out. This causes them to cheat clients on the standard consumption amounts that end up being dangerous for users and causing high dependence that wouldn’t have otherwise become the case.

For the sellers, addiction does not matter to them because it creates a continuous market for their supply while they ignore the fact that they are placing someone’s life in danger. In cases of death, the seller of the drug should be fully charged with manslaughter after selling a product that they very well knew would be harmful to a user. It isn’t an intentional act but it is part of the series of events that caused someone to lose his/her life.

The user is also responsible for the act as the criminal that sold these goods to him/her and holds a lot of blame for using a product that they know isn’t good for their health and is also illegal. The dealer is also accountable for the act of selling illegal drugs and plays a key role in creating an environment of drug abusers that can spread like a wildfire if not fought hard by the authorities.

In 2011, the Drugs Control Commission (DCC) which deal with drug abuse reported that the number of people who are addicted ranges from 150,000 and 500,000.

Most of the people who are involved in drug abuse are youths who are often involved in trafficking and consuming illegal drugs like cannabis. The common illegal drugs in Tanzania are khat, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and cannabis. President John Magufuli strongly warned saying: “In this war against narcotics, no one is indispensable, even if they are politicians, security officers, cabinet ministers or the child of a prominent person, also directing security forces to crack down on the drugs trade,” he warned, hinting that currently there are over 1,000 Tanzanians languishing in prisons outside the country, charged with drug-related cases.

He also warned that Tanzanians arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned or condemned to death outside the country over drug dealings should never expect assistance from the government. He added; “If there are Tanzanians serving life or capital sentences in foreign countries, they should be left to serve their sentences, the government will not in any way negotiate for their release.

Dr Magufuli was speaking at the State House shortly after swearing-in the Commissioner General of Drug Control and Enforcement Authority (DCEA), Rogers Sianga, Commissioner General of the Immigration Department Anna Makakala and three ambassadors. Statistics indicate that most drug abusers are youths; our campaigns are aimed at equipping youths with knowledge about the dangers of drug abuse so that they cannot fall prey of the vice.

Implementation of the programme, in five more regions, would include upgrading of rehabilitation centres and enhancing the country’s capacity at treating drug addicts. To date, Methadone-based treatment is only available in Dar es Salaam Region, at the Muhimbili National Hospital and Mwananyamala and Temeke hospitals, serving 3,351 drug addicts only. The move has come following government’s war on drug abuse, peddling and importation, hence the need to widen the scope of aiding victims with the means to recover.

A team of professional psychiatrists conducted a countrywide research pertaining to use of diverse narcotics. The ministry has already trained a number of mental health personnel for managing the centres in the relevant regions. In Tanzania, there are several sober house centers in different regions, which provide treatment and consultation to drug addicts.

They receive a number of people who are addicted and live with them for a certain period of time, depending on how one is affected. On the other hand, the government, through the Ministry of Health, Community, Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children provides support to the hospitals and sober houses. Parents and the community at large should be involved in anti-drug programmes.

SOMETIME in June 1996, as ...

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Author: MEDDY MULISA in Bukoba

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