The Coronavirus pandemic has seen a rise in the use of illicit drugs and other intoxicating substances in mining towns of Zimbabwe.
A number of illegal miners have turned to the use of crystal meth commonly known as “mutoriro” or “dombo” produced from methamphetamine which is in the same class with cocaine as well as other powerful and highly addictive street drugs that affect the central nervous system.
Also called “bulb” or “glass,” users smoke it with a small glass pipe, or inject it into a vein.
The drug was commonly used during World War II, where soldiers were given meth to keep them awake.
Speaking to GreatDykeNews24, a ‘mutoriro’ addict who happens to be an illegal miner in Kwekwe, Ishmael (not his real name) says the drug gives a quick rush of euphoria shortly after using it.
“We smoke mutoriro for production sake, it’s different from other drugs like marijuana and bronco.
“Once you smoke it, you feel confident and energetic when you are underground or outside, he said.
While on a ‘run’, an individual may stay awake most of the time for more than 10 days with little food or drink.
According to lshamel, that’s the main reason why a lot of miners use this drug to stay awake for days while extracting the precious metal.
He said they smoke it in disused energy saver bulbs which they buy for USD$2-$3 depending with the suppliers.
They clean off the white powder from the bulbs and use them as “shisha” ,a single- or multi-stemmed instrument used for heating and smoking flavored tobacco, or sometimes cannabis in clubs.
“This drug became common to miners during the lockdown last year but it was there before.
“We inhale the crystal smoke through a mouthpiece fitted to the end of the bulb or pipe.
“We then use cigarette lighters to heat the crystal from solid, liquid, to the gas which we then smoke.
“We know it’s health implications but there is nothing we can do because it keeps us awake and energetic while doing our operations,” he said.
“A lot of illegal miners are now abusing this drug no wonder why you hear of machete wars, mine accidents among others because after smoking it you feel anxious and confused, and become violent.
“It makes you feel like you can do anything. You’re invincible and after all you won’t have bad memories,” he said.
According to the Foundation for a Drug Free World International, a methamphetamine abuser is most dangerous when experiencing a phase of the addiction called “tweaking”—a condition reached at the end of a drug binge when methamphetamine no longer provides a rush or a high.
An abuser will be unable to relieve the horrible feelings of emptiness and craving, and loses sense of identity.
The abuser is often in a completely psychotic state and he exists in his own world, seeing and hearing things that no one else can perceive.
His hallucinations are so vivid that they seem real and, disconnected from reality. He can become hostile and dangerous to himself and others.
Speaking to GreatDykeNews24, one of the ‘mutoriro’ suppliers in Gweru popularly known as Shumba said most suppliers saw a huge market in mining towns during the lockdown after realising that a lot of miners work day and night without resting.
“I started this business two years ago but l used to only supply in Harare.
“I realised a huge opportunity when l visited one of the gold rushes that happened in Chegutu some time last year.
“But now l supply the drug to a number of mining towns within the Great Dyke and Mashonaland Central.
“We know it’s illegal but there is nothing we can do because we need to look after our families during the lockdown, ” he said.
A small quantity of crystal meth (equivalent to 10 or so grains of rice) costs about US$8 but Shumba said he sells it for more than US$15 to illegal miners since they have access to United States dollars.
The drug is now commonly used in Harare and other parts of the country besides in mining towns.
Abusers, who are mainly unemployed youths, are now stealing bulbs at night from verandas in high-density suburbs.