Society has such a big part to play in helping the younger generation cope with pressures of daily life. With the nuclear family not being as strong as generations of the past, the responsibilities of raising a morally sound generation lay with society at large. Although International Day Against Drug Abuse is only observed in the second half of the year, I feel compelled to highlight this topic in advance as each day that passes, is another day of missing out on helping someone out of this morbid cycle.

The discussion around this is real, and we cannot shy away from our responsibility in assisting the youth to achieve a greater moral high ground. As a teenager, I belonged to a group called “Teenagers Against Drug Abuse” (TADA). A few from my high school were selected to drive this programme within our school and local community. We attended workshops and were at the forefront of making sure our school was drug-free by creating awareness around this sensitive topic.

Sadly, as the years have past we find that more children are affected by the issues of substance and alcohol abuse wherein drugs are being sold to children and not knowing any better, these youngsters are becoming targets of drug lords within the community. Peer pressure is another aspect that prompts children to experiment,and soon thereafter addiction kicks in which brings about such severe repercussions.

Are we doing enough to eradicate this growing problem within our community? Crime, rape, murder, joblessness are all indirectly and often directly linked to the rising effects of alcohol and drug abuse in South Africa. The government has put together a blue print and a five year plan to help this problem.

However, pieces of this puzzle still remain amiss, as the main part of the problem is within the community. There has to be a pledge by the community to eradicate drug dealers and weed them out of the local areas. Despite the tragedy of substance and alcohol abuse on a whole, the most saddening by product of this is neglect, abuse and maltreatment of children who have witnessed parents abuse alcohol themselves or who have been neglected within their home environment. Immediate family members cannot turn a blind eye to this. It is noted that once a child is exposed to drugs and alcohol, they behave differently.

How then can a parent not take notice of behavioural changes?
This can only be indicative of the fact that the parent is far too consumed by other aspects of their own life and do not take the responsibility of parenting as seriously as it should be.

Whilst exposing children to illegal drugs is a form of maltreatment, other forms of sexual abuse, violence, verbal abuse, leaving children at home (unattended repeatedly, for long periods of time), and allowing children to buy drugs and alcohol for adults is totally unacceptable. These are all forms of neglect and abuse by parents which prompts children to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Neglect plays a major role in this regard as children use these methods to seek attention.

This has a cyclic effect, children who are exposed to this early in life, carry it with them throughout. Their children are affected and the cycle continues. This cycle has to be broken. For whatever the reason a child is exposed to substance and alcohol abuse this real concern in South African needs to become everyone’s problem.

How can we help? Become more aware of the community, your neighbourhood and trends therein. Pay attention and focus on your children, be an active part of their lives. Become more aware of their friends, whereabouts and any behavioural changes. Demand drug abuse education at your local schools. Although drug prevention
begins at home, having preventative education helps keep children off
drugs and alcohol from a young age. Breaking the cycle is what is important, it is never too late to seek help, or be of help. Be the change, and make a difference.