15 February 2017

Tanzania: How Drugs Ended My Life Dreams


Mwanza — When Onesmo Rupil, 23, started doing drugs almost seven years ago, little did he know how it would impact on his life.

But, at a tender age of 17, which some refer to as the 'foolish age', it is easy for a youngster to fall into the traps peer groups and others out to lure young souls into drug abuse.

To cut a long story short, Onesmo was eventually discontinued from studies at the University of Dodoma (Udom) in 2013 where he was pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Commerce and Accounting due to poor performance associated with substance abuse.

This turn of events has been hard to reverse. He has been longing to go back and earn his degree but his father can no longer manage to cover his tuition fees and other expenses.

"Dad has my younger brothers and sisters to look after. Life is tough. I messed up with the chance that I had," he tells The Citizen.

A resident of Ghana Street in Mwanza City, Onesmo has now recovered from being an addict. He is now the manager of Philimisana Foundation Sober House--currently, home to some 30 young people undergoing rehabilitation programmes. According to him, most of these mostly smoke marijuana and not cocaine and heroin which are rather too expensive.

"Marijuana is the most widely produced, trafficked and used addictive drug around here. But, the negative impacts to the human brain are there," says Onesmo.

Journey to recovery

Onesmo recalls his journey to recovery saying it was not easy. He says, he started doing drugs while still in Advanced Level of Secondary Education at a Moshi-based school.

He attained Division II in A-Level as an Economics, Geography and Math (EGM) student. He always wanted to become an engineer but he decided to pursue an accounting course.

He thinks that living far from his parents since when he was young could have attributed to his falling into drug abuse.

"I was sent to a boarding school since when I was in Class One. Hence, I enjoyed very little parental care and love because my parents thought that we were under strict teachers maximum discipline at the school," he says.

According to a UN report on global drug abuse, marijuana is the world's most widely produced, trafficked and consumed worldwide during 2010. The report further indicates that there were between 119-224 million users of marijuana in the world adult population.

According to Dr Kassian Nyandindi, the head of the psychiatric unit at the Muhimbili National Hospital, research done during 2014 indicates that a total of 550,000 people had been affected by drugs abuse.

According to him, there are an estimated 25,000 drug addicts countrywide and that only 3,500 receive treatment at the established four methadone hospitals in Dar es Salaam. He reiterated that HIV infection among drug users is between 20-50 per cent.

He says that marijuana causes brain abnormality to the user as it chemically induces a substance called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which has stronger effects on the brain.

But he says that many young people believe marijuana has little or no effect on brain. According to him, THC damages the corpus callosum part of the brain which is the major white matter tract that connects the right side of the brain to the left.

He affirms that, many youth sent for rehabilitation develop mental disorders after abusing marijuana. "But many people here associate the mental disorders with superstition," he says.

He says that most young people abuse marijuana to try and add relief and pleasure while trying to run from the reality. For example, he says that when someone's parents die, one decides to smoke marijuana in order to run from the reality a condition which he says alters the body chemistry for a period of time before returning to normal.

Onesmo insists that he was not forced by peer pressure to engage in drug abuse but he lacked his own principles and the conscious contact with God that would stop him from abusing heroin. "Peer pressure and hard life are minor aspects that trigger youths to engage in drug abuse and instead they lack their own principal's aspects which would lead them to avoid abusing drugs," he says.

He adds that many young people also lack the spiritual contact with God, who according to his religious beliefs, forbids drug abuse.

For example, he says that he used to smoke marijuana while accompanied with a group of youths before he substituted to using heroin and that the other peers stuck to their principles to avoid abusing heroin.

Narrating his ordeal as a heroin addict, Onesmo says that he used to spend over Sh100,000 to purchase heroin boosters at a cost of Sh50,000 each in order to complete his dosage. He explained that he was forced to engage in crime while in Dodoma studying at Udom in order to raise money.

"I would steal laptops belonging to students in order to raise money and buy heroin," he recalls.

He says that he was so addicted to heroin that he could not bring himself to stopping taking it because any attempt caused him restlessness, muscle and bone pain.

"I was inactive when high on heroin, my nervous system slowed down affecting the way I talked, walked and even my eating habits," he says.

However, he says that he was later arrested in 2015 and was charged with stealing over 200 laptops belonging to students at Udom. "I was on several occasions narrowly missed by gun shots fired by police as they tried to catch me," he says.

He says he was detained at Isanga Prison in Dodoma for six months. It was there that he started his journey towards healing from being a heroin addict. But he says that he has been arrested and imprisoned in several jails including in Moshi, Arusha, Tanga and Mwanza.

During his recovery, he says that he was taken to rehabilitation centres in Dar es Salaam during 2015 where where he recovered from being heroin addict.


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