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Consider the risks of alcohol and drugs

With Youth Day on 16 June and Drug Awareness Week coming up from June 24-30, let’s consider one of the main health challenges faced by our youth. Alcohol and drug addiction are a major problem in South Africa and, more often than not, the problem has its roots in the teenage years.

In their quest to spread their wings to find their own identities, teens are wired to experiment with new things. During high school years, they become exposed to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs in social settings – and often join in to be accepted as one of the group.

A survey in Gauteng showed that 80% of teens in grade 8-12 regularly drank alcohol and nearly 27% used drugs, mostly dagga. Alcohol and drugs have been shown to affect the growing brains of young people, harming the decision-making ability, learning, and also behaviour.

A significant danger is also that substance use can easily get out of control and turn into an addiction problem, especially once the young person leaves the security of home for further studies or work. This is particularly true if their parents also abuse substances, the teenagers have mental health issues like depression or problems in school or with relationships.

The financial stressors that we know are that largely unemployed youth are exposed to is another trigger which can lead to increased substance abuse and eventually addiction.

Besides the risk of addiction, those under the influence of alcohol or drugs are more likely to indulge in risky behaviours – it contributes to the problem of teenage pregnancies and the spread of HIV.  Furthermore, 80% of deaths in male youths are alcohol-related and 60% of crimes involve the use of substances.

Everyone doesn’t drink and do drugs and it’s not as harmless as it seems in the movies. It’s more adult to be able to just say no than to give in under peer pressure.

If you need help or want to get help for someone, talk to your parents, a teacher, a counselor or church leader.  You can also contact SANCA on 086 147 2622.

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