Help stop the rise of substance abuse among children

The World Health Organization has long recognised alcohol and other drug use as “a major health and social problem in South Africa”, affecting adults and children alike.

Several studies, including research conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Southern Africa in collaboration with the Provincial Government of the Western Cape, have revealed that substance abuse among youth is widespread, with the problem manifesting itself in children as young as 12 years old.

Educate your child about the dangers of drugs and alcohol

Having an honest conversation with your children about drugs and alcohol is an integral part of your role as a parent. It is never too soon to begin talking to your child about the hazards of substance abuse.

According to teen drug statistics, the average age at which teens use marijuana for the first time is 14, and youth can begin using alcohol before turning 12, so the early you educate your child around this topic, the better.

Explain the major negative implications of substance abuse to your child, and how it can permanently impair their memory, cognitive functioning, motivation, and control. Explain how substance addiction is one of the primary causes of crime, contributing to poverty, dysfunctional families and communities, and the burden of disease, injury, and early death. Explain what drugs look like, and show your child pictures (off the Internet) of what these drugs look like.

Top tip: Always use age-appropriate words when talking to young children and be sure to explain what drugs are, what they do, and which substances are dangerous or illegal.

The parental role

As role models for their children, parents’ attitudes on alcohol, tobacco, and drugs can significantly impact whether a child may start using dangerous substances. If you drink alcohol, smoke marijuana, or chew tobacco, your child may think that it is okay for them to do the same. Try to keep your home free of drugs and alcohol, and don’t use any of them around your child.

The function of schools

Schools and teachers who engage with children regularly are in an excellent position to recognise youngsters who exhibit signs and symptoms of substance use problems (sadly, often, parents are the last to notice that their child has a problem). Bringing any troublesome behaviour or indicators of discomfort to the notice of a parent can aid in the detection of substance use disorders before the situation escalates.

The community’s role

National and worldwide data emphasises the effectiveness and significance of community engagement in reducing alcohol and other substance abuse among children. It is critical to foster a sense of “community ownership”. Simply put, the safety, health and wellbeing of children is everyone’s responsibility.

The Government’s role

The Government’s role is to create an enabling environment for an integrated and holistic approach to substance abuse and its associated social risks in order to build safer and healthier communities.

Where to get help

If your child needs help with substance abuse, contact SANCA. SANCA strives to address substance abuse and various addictions by providing specialised education, prevention, treatment and aftercare services to all people, thereby enhancing the quality of life and helping to restore their self-respect and dignity. For more information, click here.  

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