USE of illicit drugs in the country is increasing at an alarming rate, with cannabis and heroin being the most commonly used, hence the need for the government to embark on immediate strategies to tackle the problem.
A study conducted in 12 regions has shown an increase in illicit drug use, especially along major transport corridors. The trend poses a serious danger to future generations who are being lured into the vice.
The study was conducted by 14 experts from the Drug Control Commission (DCC), the University of California, San Francisco and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Tanzania, who presented the findings yesterday in Dar es Salaam.
Among recommendations presented by the researchers include provision of a range of services including advocacy and sensitisation activities, provision of primary drug use and HIV risk prevention strategies for all groups.
The services also envisage strengthening coordination and governance of community and government resources for drug-use interventions, carrying out additional studies to measure HIV prevalence and associated behaviour among PWUD and provision of more education on types of drugs as well as their effects and consequences.
The study; ‘ mapping of people who use drugs (PWUD) and people who inject drugs (PWID) in the selected regions of Tanzania’, sought to understand the scope and magnitude of non-injection and injection use of illicit drugs among the two groups.
The study was conducted between July 2013 and August 2014 in 12 regions which are Mtwara, Dodoma, Morogoro, Coast, Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Arusha, Mwanza, Mbeya, Shinyanga, Geita and Kigoma. The majority of the PWUD engage in smoking a ‘cocktail,’ which is a combination of cannabis dust, tobacco and heroin, while those identified as PWID appeared to inject heroin.
One of the researchers, Ms Moza Makumbuli, noted that within all 12 regions, several primary and secondary key informants could not distinguish heroin from cocaine by name but instead use a local term ‘unga’. “In all regions needle sharing was high among the small number who engaged in injection drug use.
Risky sexual behaviour also appeared high among people who use drugs,” she explained. In Tanga the findings shows that drug use has spread to small towns and villages outside the regional capital along the Tanga-Segera highway, with drug pushers supplying from Tanga City.
Of the regions studied Tanga appeared to have the most drug pushers, with PWUD moving from one hotspot to another depending on where drugs or quality drugs were available.
Mtwara had the lowest estimated number of PWUD with drug use concentrated in Mtwara Municipality, but was also reportedly present in Masasi town as well, according to the study.
Generally the study estimates that the number of PWUD across the regions were 5,190 in Tanga, 3,300 in Mwanza, 2,700 in Arusha, 1,539 in Coast, 1,500 in Morogoro, 1,096 in Dodoma, 820 in Mbeya, 563 in Kilimanjaro, 319 in Shinyanga, 108 in Geita, 100 in Kigoma and 65 in Mtwara.
The PWID was 540 in Tanga, 300 in Mwanza, 297 in Morogoro, 230 in Arusha, 164 in Coast, 133 in Dodoma, 107 in Kilimanjaro, 64 in Mbeya, 25 in Shinyanga, 7 in Mtwara, 3 in Geita and 0 in Kigoma.
In his opening remarks, the DCC Commissioner, Mr Kenneth Kaseke, said there is very little data about injection drug use in the rest of the country, apart from Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, which prompted the qualitative study.
Although the study is not representative, meaning it does not reflect the real situation in the whole country, Mr Kaseke said this gives a clear picture of the extent of the problem and calls for the need for in-depth research to represent the whole country.
“Despite limited resources, Tanzania is determined to combat the growing problem of drug abuse and HIV transmission by providing a comprehensive package services for IDUs and their injecting or sexual partners,” he explained.
The Zanzibar Executive Director, Anti-Drug Commission, Ms Kheriyangu Khamis, said the study shows that the situation on the ground is alarming and that illicit drug abuse is spreading rapidly in the region.
“We must use the research findings in our development plans, so we can come up with the right strategies that are needed on the ground,” she explained.
Source: http://www.dailynews.co.tz/ 1st August 2015