Drug addicts most likely to commit crimes

By Fungai Jachi

DRUG abuse and crime are increasingly becoming twin evils threatening the well-being of communities across the world.

Zimbabwe is no exception with drug and substance abuse having become a major source of worry among youths who are now engaging in various forms of crime.

As 21-year-old Daniel Fussum walks to the Harare Magistrates Court, very few are aware that this is a young life lost to crime if the allegations are anything to go by.

With his movement somewhat inhibited by handcuffs, the young man has not seen the worst yet as the courtroom is not a comfort zone for murder suspects, worse still when the victim is one’s father.

Amid suspicion of intoxication, the court is told of a chilling story with allegations being that Fussum brutally murdered his father, stabbing him 18 times with a kitchen knife.

But, his case is just a tip of the iceberg. The country is fast losing a whole generation to the ravaging scourge.

Tukai Sinoya is also in the same predicament after he allegedly killed his seven-year-old son with an axe, the sad part being that he reportedly mistook him for a wild animal.

At the centre of all these cases and other crimes is drug and substance abuse.

“I started using drugs because I felt like I did not have the solution to my problems but because I was not employed had to steal from my parents and then my neighbors. Being hooked on drugs is dangerous because you can do anything to get them. Sometimes I would be violent and not even realise it until the next morning when someone tells me what I would have done,” said one youth.

With the nation fast running out of possible solutions, the only way out for now is rehabilitation.

“As youths it is critical for us to understand that drug abuse is not the solution. We need space to express ourselves. We need space to be kept busy and away from trouble. Our youth centres should be brought back so that we have something to do. Rehabilitation centers should be made available so that those already hooked can be helped,” said one young man.

Another youth agrees saying, “The streets are not safe and to survive youths end up using drugs. The end result of abusing drugs is crime. We find that most drug users are repeat offenders because they need to continuously buy the drugs so they end up stealing or even injure those they intend to steal from. It is really terrifying and proper rehabilitation is important so that youths are saved from drug and substance abuse.”

What is even more worrying is the symbiotic relationship between drug abuse and crime.

“The relationship between drug abuse and crime cannot be ignored because when someone is under the influence of drugs they feel invisible and unstoppable. So, the moment one is intoxicated they will be in a world of their own and cannot be controlled because their senses will not be fully functioning. Sometimes they will hallucinate and see things that are not there so it can ignite violent behaviour which will result in them committing violent crimes. For those who commit petty thefts it is because of the need to continue buying more drugs since most drug users are not employed as they are unemployable.So, proper rehabilitation is important to deal with the scourge,” said Mental health expert, Dr Mertha Nyamande.

While the only way for justice to prevail when one commits a crime is prison, it does not seem to work when the case involves drug and substance abuse as alluded to by Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network Executive Director Mr Wilson Box.

“People who use drugs need help most of them end up committing crimes because they do not support. As society we need to understand that drug users are victims too and they need help. We are not condoning crime but it goes beyond that because incarcerating them will not help without proper rehabilitation. So, we need to have proper rehabilitation centers that will see to the true recovery of drug users,” he said.

With the way drug abuse has become rampant in Zimbabwe, government has responded by coming up with various interventions to deal with the vice.

The country’s drug master plan emphasises the need for drug supply reduction, harm reduction and demand reduction.

It also carries guidelines for treatment, rehabilitation and community reintegration for drug users, over and above the establishment of a drug fund and legislation that will ensure peddlers get lengthy custodial sentences to cut the supply chain.