ZIO MWALE, Lusaka
WHEN Lucky Tembo, a resident of Lusaka, was 15 years old, he joined what he calls a wrong group. As part of recreational activities, the group used to drink alcohol and smoke dagga.Obviously, that was at the time the legalisation of dagga for medicinal purposes had not yet become seriously part of the national conversation.
“I started treating weed and alcohol as a refreshment, in no time, I became addicted, my family observed my behaviour and my grades went down in school because I couldn’t concentrate,” Lucky, now 17, says.
Lucky’s case may not be unique. In fact, it is not. It is easy to spot many young people like Lucky who are still indulging in substance abuse in many neighbourhoods of Lusaka.
The consequences of substance abuse can be catastrophic. Take the case of Lucky for instance.
“I was addicted to alcohol and cannabis, and in the process, I suffered depression,” Lucky says. “It was hard to overcome the addiction until I started rehab, it was a very helpful session and it transformed my life.”
The rehabilitation sessions that Lucky is talking about were conducted at the Great North Road Rehab Centre which is located in Lusaka’s Rhodespark area.
The centre, which was recently launched, is a community-based organisation under the Great North Road Academy brand of schools. It aims at rehabilitating youths that are victims of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, depression and other experiences that may have negatively impacted their lives.
Speaking at the official opening of the centre, Dr Rozious Siatwambo, who is founder and director said the centre focuses on rebuilding lives, families, and the society for a healthy and prosperous nation.
He says the sessions at the centre are done in a confidential, professional and supportive environment where one can share his or her experiences regarding substance abuse.
He shared that before the official launch of the centre, rehabilitation sessions were carried out at the Great North Road Academy Main Campus.
“I have personally sat down with teenagers and youths that have been victims of drug and alcohol abuse, helping them get their lives from the negative impact has always been my passion,” Mr Siatwambo says.
He says the birth of the centre is not an accident but an initiative that was well thought of and designed specifically to meet the needs of the people.
“Drug abuse, if left unchecked has serious consequences in homes, schools and communities,” Dr Siatwambo says. “It imposes substantial costs on users and their families, taxpayers and the national economy.”
He says the centre has assembled a team of experts drawn from diverse professional backgrounds who include psychologists, psychosocial therapists and medical practitioners.
Statistics from the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) indicate that there has been a steady increase in the number of persons abusing drugs.
For instance, in 2016, DEC attended to 610 clients while in 2017, the number increased to 704 which represented a 15.41 percent increment in numbers.
DEC deputy commissioner Kelvin Silumba says despite the commission putting in place a number of measures, they have continued to record a steady increase in the numbers of young people abusing drugs.
“Young people who persistently abuse drugs often experience a number of challenges ranging from health-related problems, poor social and personal relationship to contracting of HIV and AIDS,” Mr Silumba.
He says the opening of the centre is timely because many young people in the country are addicted to drugs such as cannabis, miraa, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, benzhexol and diazepam.
“The commission has also recorded abuse of substances such as glue, bostic and jenkem while some young people have resorted to abuse prescription drugs such as benilyn which contains codeine,” he says.
“We’re thankful as a commission for this rehab centre; we want to congratulate the Great North Road Academy for this wonderful initiative that will help a lot of people in our society,” he says.
Also speaking at the same official opening of the centre, Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs assistant director Godfrey Kaoma observed that the rate at which young people are abusing drugs, alcohol and falling pregnant while in school is alarming than it has ever been in the nation’s history.
He says the nation has seen a spate of events that demonstrate the moral degradation in the country as seen in the emergency of things like sex parties and the unprecedented use of drugs and alcohol.
“The opening of the rehab centre could not have come at a better time, we are at a time in our nation’s life where we need to put heads together to restore our nation’s position as an epitome of morality,” he said.
Mr Kaoma assured the director and management of the rehab centre support from the ministry and urged them to be diligent in their work and exercise patience with the clients.
ZIO MWALE, Lusaka