Category Healthcare
SUB CATEGORIES General  |  HIV |  Medical Schemes | 

Drug abuse is damaging South Africa's youth

25 June 2013 Peter Jordan, Fedhealth
Peter Jordan, Principal Officer of Fedhealth.

Peter Jordan, Principal Officer of Fedhealth.

The drug problem in South Africa is extremely serious, with drug usage reported as being at twice the world norm. Over 15% of our population has a drug problem.

In light of SANCA's drug awareness week from 24 to 28 June and Youth Month, now is the perfect time to place drug abuse in the spotlight. According to Patrizia Scalone from Metapsychetc, substance abuse can simply be defined as a pattern of harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes that gives rise to both physical and psychological dependence. "Dependence results in mental, emotional, biological or physical, social and economic instability. The effects of substance abuse on an individual form the basis of its increasing effects on society. This is a major danger of substance abuse," she explains.

Studies show that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics. School kids who use alcohol or drugs are three times more likely to get involved in violent crimes. Frighteningly the average age of drug dependency in South Africa is 12 years old and dropping. "We need to warn our youth about drug use and encourage them to stand strong against peer and adult pressure," says Peter Jordan, Principal Officer of Fedhealth.

Along with peer pressure, there are several other major factors that can influence the abuse of drugs among youths namely weak parental control, child abuse, imitation, emotional stress, truancy among students, the availability of the drugs and the ineffectiveness of laws on drug trafficking.

No matter how much or often substances are consumed, if drug use is causing problems in the person's life - at work, school, home or relationships - there is likely a substance abuse or addiction problem. "In many cases, there is a fine line between regular use, substance abuse and addiction.
Very few addicts are able to recognise when they have crossed that line,"
says Scalone. "The good news is, however, that with the right treatment and support, the disruptive effects of drug use can be counteracted and control can be regained. The first obstacle is to recognise and admit a problem, or listen to loved ones who are often better able to see the negative effects of drug use." Young people who abuse substances often experience an array of problems including academic difficulties, health-related problems, mental problems like depression, and poor peer relationships. "Family relationships are also affected. Substance abuse by youths often results in family crises and can jeopardise many aspects of family life."

The social and economic costs related to youth substance abuse are high.
They result from the financial losses and distress suffered by alcohol and drug related crime victims, increased burdens for the support of young adults who are not able to become self supporting, and greater demands for medical and other treatment services for these youths.

"There is an undeniable link between substance abuse and delinquency. It cannot be claimed that substance abuse causes delinquent behaviour or delinquency causes alcohol and other drug use. However, the two behaviours are strongly correlated and often bring about school and family problems, involvement with negative peer groups, lack of neighbourhood social control and physical or sexual abuse," adds Scalone.

Substance abuse is associated with both violent and income generating crimes by youths. Gangs, trafficking, prostitution and growing numbers of youth homicides are among the social and criminal justice problems often linked to adolescent substance abuse.

Jordan points out that FedHealth has a 24 hour help line (0860 333 432) offering support for addicts and those living with addicts. "In 1995 it was reported there were over 120 drug syndicates in South Africa. Now there are over 500. It was also reported that we are seeing an increase in injected drug use which means more South Africans are using harder drugs than ever before. The youth need our help. We encourage them to make use of our dedicated help line as they can speak to an expert who deals specifically with substance abuse, peer pressure, sex issues and abuse," concludes Jordan.

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