Are Zimbabwean Youths Boiling Used Sanitary Pads?

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On March 16th 2021, a tweet surfaced claiming that Zimbabwean youths are boiling used sanitary pads and drinking the liquid to get high.  We ran a check on the authenticity of these claims.


Zimbabwe has been facing an economic slowdown and 2020 was marked by an economic and health crisis, occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic. Currently, the Zimbabwean dollar is trading at 361.9 against the US dollar. The liquidity of Zimbabwe’s economy can mainly be attributed to the dollarization of the currency in 2009, which did not receive support from the United States because it was not official and there was no agreement between the two nations.

However, in June 2019, the country’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, outlawed the use of the US dollar in local transactions in a quest to resuscitate the economy. This move sparked reactions from economists with fear that the decision might throw the economy back to the hyperinflation era. In an article by Reuters, economist Jee-A Van Der Linnde said, “Zimbabwe will have to show results before people are convinced,” expressing the citizen’s distrust of the local currency.


According to The Guardian, 90% of Zimbabweans are unemployed with youths being the most affected by a rise in drug use and abuse as a way to forget the realities of life.

An article by indicated that Zimbabwean youths boil used sanitary towels and baby diapers for the liquid to get tipsy in a cheap and legal way.

These diapers and sanitary towels contain a chemical content called Sodium Polyacrylate, – [-CH2 – CH(COONa)-] n – a sodium salt considered to be an absorbent.  When mixed with any fluids, it is not soluble but instead swells. Its ability to absorb fluids makes it an ideal component in the manufacturing of diapers and sanitary pads.

This salt-like component when boiled is then drunk or mixed with Broncleer or milk and sugar to make “The Diapers Tea”.  A piece published by the Sly Media News states that the liquid from boiled sanitary towels is stronger than “bronco” (nickname of ‘Broncleer’), a cough syrup containing codeine often abused as a drug. This is not a new trend as there are similar traces in countries such as Indonesia.


As bizarre as it sounds, these claims are TRUE.

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Nyakerario Omari

Nyakerario J. Omari is a Kenyan writer and journalist with a passion for in-depth stories told through documentaries. She has an interest in reporting matters concerning health, crime and human rights.