Illicit Substance use among adolescents and youths in Zimbabwe: a stakeholder’s perspective on the enabling factors and potential strategies to address this scourge


  • Thulani Runyararo Dzinamarira Technical Department, Abdullah Dzinamarira Foundation, Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Mirriam Mutevere Technical Department, Abdullah Dzinamarira Foundation, Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Stephen Nyoka Technical Department, Abdullah Dzinamarira Foundation, Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Enos Moyo College of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe
  • McAuthur Mkwapatira Technical Department, Abdullah Dzinamarira Foundation, Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Grant Murewanhema College of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Tafadzwa Dzinamarira Technical Department, Abdullah Dzinamarira Foundation, Harare, Zimbabwe; School of Health Systems and Public Health, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa



Drug, Illicit substance, Adolescents, Youth


Drug and illicit substance use among adolescents and the youth is a rising global health concern. In Zimbabwe, this problem has also been increasing in magnitude, with reports indicating that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growth of the problem. Decisively dealing with the problem requires an understanding of the contributory factors from all significant stakeholders’ perspective. We qualitatively explored the contributory factors to drug and substance use among the adolescents and youths in Zimbabwe from a significant stakeholders’ perspective. We conducted three focus group discussions with relevant stakeholders to reach saturation point. Four themes emerged on enabling factors, namely idleness among the youths and the adolescents, increased access to illicit substances, low community awareness of the signs of drug and substance use leading to delayed identification, and absence of social workers in the communities. Four themes emerged as possible strategies to curb drug and illicit substance use in this age group, namely capacitation of mental health institutions, expanding community awareness programmes, tailored approaches for adolescent and youth programming, and strengthening law enforcement. A convergence with these relevant stakeholders is urgently needed to map strategies to deal with the enabling factors place, and to strengthen strategies to curb the problem.


UNODC World Drug Report 2022 highlights trends on cannabis post-legalization, environmental impacts of illicit drugs, and drug use among women and youth.

Available at: 2022/June/unodc-world-drug-report-2022-highlights-trends-on-cannabis-post-legalization--environmental-impacts-of-illicit-drugs--and-drug-use-among-women-and-youth.html. Accessed on 12 February 2023.

Mukwenha S, Murewanhema G, Madziva R, Dzinamarira T, Herrera H, Musuka G. Increased illicit substance use among Zimbabwean adolescents and youths during the COVID-19 era: an impending public health disaster. Addiction. 2022;117(4):1177-8.

Degenhardt L, Stockings E, Patton G, Hall WD, Lynskey M. The increasing global health priority of substance use in young people. Lancet Psychiatr. 2016;3(3):251-64.

Nawi AM, Ismail R, Ibrahim F, Hassan MR, Manaf MR, Amit N, Ibrahim N, et al. Risk and protective factors of drug abuse among adolescents: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2021;21(2088):34-8.

Drabble L, Trocki K, Klinger J. Religiosity as a protective factor for hazardous drinking and drug use among sexual minority and heterosexual women: findings from the National Alcohol Survey. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016;161:127-34.

Goliath V, Pretorius B. Peer risk and protective factors in adolescence: Implications for drug use prevention. Soc Work. 2016;52(1):113-29.

Schinke S, Schwinn T, Hopkins J, Wahlstrom L. Drug abuse risk and protective factors among Hispanic adolescents. Prev Med Rep. 2016;3:185-8.

Jakaza T, Nyoni C. Emerging dynamics of substance abuse among street children in Zimbabwe. A case of Harare central business district. Afr J Soc Work. 2018;8:63-70.

Zimbabwe's drug, alcohol abuse problem under COVID-19. Available at: Accessed on 12 February 2023.

Kemp CG, Concepcion T, Ahmed HU, Anwar N, Baingana F, Bennett IM, et al. Baseline situational analysis in Bangladesh, Jordan, Paraguay, the Philippines, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe for the WHO Special Initiative for Mental Health: Universal Health Coverage for Mental Health. PLoS ONE. 2022;17(3):e0265570.

Crews F, He J, Hodge C. Adolescent cortical development: a critical period of vulnerability for addiction. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2007;86(2):189-99.

Stidham Hall K, Moreau C, Trussell J. The link between substance use and reproductive health service utilization among young U.S. women. Subst Abus. 2013;34(3):283-91.

Reardon D, Coleman P, Cougle J. Substance Use Associated with Unintended Pregnancy Outcomes in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2004;30:369-83.

Plummer-DP. Focus group methodology Part 1: Considerations for design. Int J Ther Rehabil. 2008;15(2):69-73.

Sim J, Waterfield J. Focus group methodology: some ethical challenges. Qual Quant. 2019;53(6):3003-22.

Gittings L, Price Y, Kelly J, Kannemeyer N, Thomas A, Medley S, et al. Health and development-related priorities and challenges of adolescents and young people: findings from South Africa and Kenya prior to and during COVID-19 pandemic. Psychol Health Med. 2022;27(1):193-218.

Lundahl LH, Cannoy C. COVID-19 and Substance Use in Adolescents. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2021;68(5):977-90.

Lee JO, Hill KG, Hartigan LA, Boden JM, Guttmannova K, Kosterman R, et al. Unemployment and substance use problems among young adults: Does childhood low socioeconomic status exacerbate the effect? Soc Sci Med. 2015;143:36-44.

Ngure J, Chepchieng M, Ngure P, Omulema B. Accessibility of substances, accommodation status, and extracurricular activities’ influence on undergraduates in Kenya. Afr J Health Sci. 2019; 32(3):1-15.

Nwagu EN, Dibia SI, Odo AN. Community Readiness for Drug Abuse Prevention in Two Rural Communities in Enugu State, Nigeria. SAGE Open Nurs. 2020;6:58-60.

Teferra S, Shibre T. Perceived causes of severe mental disturbance and preferred interventions by the Borana semi-nomadic population in southern Ethiopia: a qualitative study. BMC Psychiatry. 2012;12:79.

Kheswa JG, Makhalemele TJ. Substance abuse among adolescent males: Social work and abusers’ perspectives. Int J Soc Sci Humanit. 2012;12(2):400-15.




How to Cite

Dzinamarira, T. R., Mutevere, M., Nyoka, S., Moyo, E., Mkwapatira, M., Murewanhema, G., & Dzinamarira, T. (2023). Illicit Substance use among adolescents and youths in Zimbabwe: a stakeholder’s perspective on the enabling factors and potential strategies to address this scourge. International Journal Of Community Medicine And Public Health, 10(8), 2913–2919.



Short Communication