Drug Abuse And Addiction Cases Escalate In Chobe

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The Chobe District Health Management Team (DHMT) has raised concerns about the escalating cases of drug abuse and addiction mostly affecting youth and males in the district. 

This as the office has received many reports of people more especially the youth who come to seek mental health services at various health facilities consulted by the psychiatric nurse or social workers.

According to Chobe DHMT coordinator, Bayengemali Munyere, the affected have reached addiction level and no longer use drugs out of choice but as a response to withdrawal symptoms. Munyere revealed this during the Commemoration of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking that was held in Kasane this week.

According to her, in 2022, Chobe DHMT recorded eight cases of drug addiction and the clients were all males. In 2023, the department recorded a total of 30 cases that affected 28 males and two females while from January to June 2024 they have already recorded 17 cases.

“Between June 2023 and June 2024, the DHMT recorded 45 cases with the most affected gender being males at 40. The most affected age is 25-36 at 23 followed by the 14-25 at 14,” she said.

Munyere said these numbers indicate an increase in the burden and complications of alcohol and substance abuse in the district. She revealed that the majority are reported to be using marijuana coupled with alcohol abuse while a few reportedly use other illicit drugs.

She indicated that the said individuals were at various stages of addiction and also presented complications of alcohol and substance abuse.

This, she revealed includes displaying disruptive behaviour, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, depression, personality disorders, and other mental disorders.  The coordinator lamented that the complications do not only affect the individuals but also hurt the family, partners, work, school, and community.

According to her, the common reasons given by their clients for engaging in substance abuse include poor relations with others (being parents, partners, and siblings), lack of income, or financial issues. The clients therefore perceive engaging in substance abuse as a way of trying to cope with the situation.

In their efforts to address the problem, Munyere stated that in collaboration with Community-Based Organisations, they hold community wellness activities even at workplaces educating on health matters inclusive alcohol and substance abuse. She noted that the District Gender Committee is also coming on board with their 2024 plan capturing alcohol and substance abuse as one of their objective. Munyere has called upon the male sector to take part because as more stakeholders come on board they can help prevent and reduce the use of alcohol and drugs in the district.

Meanwhile, police statistics show that 111 suspects were arrested in 2021, 2022 (89), 2023 (54) and 2024 (15) for possession of suspected illegal substances.  The arrests were mostly for those in possession of Dagga (Marijuana) and the majority of them were males aged between 20-39 years of age. 

“The numbers are a cause for concern, therefore this calls for all stakeholders to work together to prevent substance abuse in our communities. In Chobe, the Botswana Police Service has a prevention and reduction strategy that includes recruiting more informers, deploying Officers and SSG (K9) units at border posts, doing surprise raids on well-known drug dealers, and continuing stop, question and search campaigns,” Munyere complained.

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