Research has shown that major transitions in children’s lives are the biggest risk factors for drug abuse. Leaving the security of the family and entering school is the first big transition for children. As they advance from elementary school to middle school, children often face new academic hiccups and social situations, and are usually drawn into wider peer groups. It is at this stage that kids are likely to try or encounter drugs for the first time.
Exposure to drugs becomes more frequent as youths enter high school. There is greater availability to drugs, greater exposure to social activities involving drugs, drug abusers and other substances such as cigarettes and alcohol. This risk for drugs and alcohol abuse, if not controlled during the adolescent stage, can mutate into a much dangerous addiction as the person leaves home for college or work.
Hence, the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA), Drug Awareness Week was formed. It serves as a reminder and an eye-opener that risk for alcohol and drug abuse in adolescents is high and real, and something must be done to stop it.
Let’s delve into the statistics. Research shows that in South Africa, 35% of adolescents drink alcohol while 29% binge drink. According to a recent survey, 80% among grade 8 to 12 in Gauteng regularly consume alcohol, while almost 27% of them used drugs with dagga and cannabis.
Experts agreed that the top drugs of choice in South Africa are dagga, cannabis and cocaine. Other widely used drugs include, hallucinogens (i.e. magic mushrooms and LSD), narcotics (i.e. heroin, morphine, codeine), amphetamines, methamphetamines, club drugs (i.e. ecstasy) and sedative-hypnotic drugs (i.e. Mandrax).
What is SANCA Drug Awareness Week and National Youth Month
In lieu of the Government Employees Medical Scheme’s (GEMS) ongoing effort to inform, educate and raise awareness about the pressing issues on alcohol and drug abuse in adolescents, SANCA Drug Awareness Week will be held from 24th to 28th of June 2017, in line with National Youth Month.
Top Reasons Why Adolescents Abuse Alcohol and Drugs
According to the SANCA, the rising incidents of alcohol and drug abuse among teenagers are rooted from irresponsible drinking by parents in front of children and frequent non-compliance of stores and outlets selling alcohol to minors. Other reasons why South African teenagers become alcohol and drug users are the following:
- Lack of parental supervision.
- A family history of alcoholism and drug abuse.
- Lack of, inconsistent or harsh discipline.
- Lack of or no communication between parents and children.
- Ongoing conflicts in the family.
- History of physical or sexual abuse.
- Academic difficulties.
- Emotional instability.
- Peer pressure.
- Curiosity or desire to experiment.
- Ignorance or wrong perceptions about the risks of alcohol and drug abuse.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse in Teenagers
Effects of alcohol abuse can transmute into dangerous, and sometimes, irreversible long-term health complications, which include:
- Decreased attention span.
- Poor academic results.
- Impaired memory.
- A higher chance of having suicide attempts.
- A higher success rate of suicide attempts.
- A higher risk of becoming sexually active, having sex with a stranger, having unprotected sex, getting HIV/STDs, or being involved or victim of a sexual crime.
- Higher probability of becoming an alcohol addict in later years.
- Higher chance of trying different drugs.
Effects of Drug Abuse in Teenagers
The effects of drug abuse in teens are similar to the effects of alcohol abuse listed above, but with more dangerous added risks. These include:
- Higher levels of anxiety and depression.
- Compulsive craving and use of drugs.
- Higher chance of using higher doses of drugs.
- A greater chance of committing a crime for money to support drug use.
- Poses dodgy health risks such as brain circuitry, which can alter human behavior, permanent brain damage, liver damage, heart attack, stroke, difficulty in breathing, hepatitis and cancer.
Signs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Teenagers
- Sudden change in personality or unusual behavior.
- Rampant mood swings.
- Unusual violent or aggressive responses.
- Withdrawing from family life.
- Change in peer groups.
- Breaking rules deliberately or tend to be rebellious.
- Making excuses for own behavior or for friends.
- Telling lies about own whereabouts and activities.
- High levels of anxiety and depression.
- Suicidal tendencies.
Message on SANCA Drug Awareness Week and National Youth Month
Adolescence is a crucial stage for parents and children. It is the stage where parents should play an active role in shaping their children’s personality and behavior, as well as guide them towards becoming responsible and successful adults. This event aims to encourage parents to speak to their child about the dangers of alcohol and drug use and to keep the lines of communication open throughout adolescence, no matter how uncomfortable it is at first, or how much your child resists.
Learn how to protect your children against alcohol and drug abusers and other risk factors that can negatively influence your child. Know how to understand subtle signs of alcohol and drug abuse and how to deal with it if you suspect that your child has already been using drugs or abusing alcohol. Be an informed, responsible parent or guardian and learn how to help children re-route their ways towards a better future.