Harare streets flooded with addictive deadly pain killer

HARARE - Health experts have expressed concern over Harare’s streets being flooded with pethidine, a deadly pain killer which is addictive.

Speaking at a Zimbabwe Medical Association function, health expert Walter Mangezi said pethidine is assigned for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. But it is being bought on the streets by patients.

Compared to morphine, pethidine is supposed to be safer but is actually addictive.

“Pethidine is being smuggled into the country from Zambia. And we have reports from patients saying that they are buying the drug from the street,” he said.

Several countries have put strict limits on the use of the drug. Nevertheless, some physicians continue to use it as a first line strong opioid. Opioids can produce a feeling of euphoria, and this effect, coupled with physical dependence, can lead to recreational use of opioids by many individuals.

The Medical Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) director general, Gugu Mahlangu, said the situation was worrying.

“Yes we are aware of the situation although we are unaware of the extent of the problem,” she said.

“The level of control differs for these products. Products that are classified as narcotics, pethidine being one example, are controlled internationally. The legitimate distribution chain requires an import permit to be applied for, the exporting country to reciprocate with an export permit for exactly the same quantity. Upon receipt in the country, MCAZ is notified by the importer,” said Mahlangu.

She said importers are required to record the name, address and prescriber for each transaction whenever they sell the drug.

MCAZ said it was aware that addicts are capable of obtaining prescriptions from various doctors, at times under different names.

This, however, does not account for the products that are being peddled on the market.

However, there is a belief that some medical professionals actually contribute to the peddling of drugs by supplying them to drug lords who then offload to patients at $10 for the drug, a thing that the MCAZ denied knowledge of.

“We are not aware of professionals selling these products in bulk. Such an act can lead to the cancellation of one’s practising certificate and person’s licence. It is therefore our suspicion that the medicines on the streets are smuggled into the country from countries where there are weaker controls,” she added.

Some of these drugs are smuggled from neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia.

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