Substance abuse is an important social and health problem and global data suggests that substance abuse often starts between the ages of 14 and 15 years – however children as young as 8 years old have been found to experiment with illicit drugs. The predominant reason for experimentation is linked to the fact that adolescence is a period of transition when young people are more impulsive and reckless than other developmental stages of their lives. Poor parental control, child abuse, imitation, emotional stress, and the availability and drugs also have a large role to play.
The reality is that risky behaviour – which includes substance abuse – during the adolescent years are of concern as they are associated with increased risk for injury, interpersonal violence, crime, high-risk sexual behaviour, HIV, unwanted pregnancies, suicide, academic difficulties, and school drop-out – thereby impacting negatively on the rest of a young person’s life.
So, what can we do and how do we do to support our young people?
As a society, we need to actively identify young people who are at risk for substance abuse at an early age and provide them with the necessary skills to cope. We know that the age of initiation into substance abuse is getting younger and this – coupled with an increase in usage with age – suggests a call for the implementation of prevention strategies at a primary school level together with programmes to support mental health is urgently needed. Parents can support and minimise the number of stressors our young people have in their lives and must play an active role in shaping their children’s personality and behaviour, guiding them to become responsible and successful adults. But community members also have a role to play and need to speak to our children about the dangers of alcohol and drug use.
We all have a role in educating children and adolescents on the dangers and realities of alcohol and drug use, we need to know and understand subtle signs of substance and know how to deal with it. We need to be informed and responsible and learn how to help children-in-need re-route their ways towards a better future.
CHIVA South Africa is passionate about the lives of all young people. We work with health facilities to improve the skills and knowledge of frontline healthcare workers and support their efforts to achieve a long and healthy life for all children and adolescents, regardless of where they live.
For more information contact SANCA – SANCA NATIONAL-Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation and Prevention or WhatsApp 076 535 1701