Why South African children are vulnerable to drug addiction.
Written by: Lobone Raditladi: Clinical Psychologist
24 April 2018
One does not need to visit a psychiatric hospital to see the substance use problem in South Africa.
I do not even need to share the literature reflecting the statistics around substance use in South Africa. Such a problem is often all around us as we are likely to see young people smoke cannabis or nyaope right at our doorstep, in our neighbourhoods. The effects of these drugs (and of many other preferred drugs) are very conspicuous. For example, addicts usually steal from their homes and neighbourhoods to sell expensive items at a very cheap price just to get a fix. It is worrying to also note that young people drop from school because of substance use and therefore have waisted academic opportunities.
“Where did it all go wrong”?
This is the question asked by many parents and concerned members of society. Subsequently, the substance user becomes identified as the main problem, as the black sheep who does not appreciate what the parents/primary caregivers have offered to him/her, as the one who does not care, the one who chooses failure over success.
Is this the case? Maybe not… There is a bigger problem.
Off course every person has freedom of choice. There are people who have overcome obstacles by choosing the right path. However, we should not ignore the role of family system or society as one of the predisposing factors here. The family of the substance user may therefore not necessarily be completely free of blame. Sometimes it may be that the child needs affection, acceptance, a sense of belonging, recognition or affirmation from loved ones. If the child does not get these, he/she may seek such in inappropriate places where he/she learns to use substances and feels confident as his/her needs are met. To continue feeling like this, he/she continues using substances to cope with challenges at home, which also perpetuates the problem. In other words, the child uses creative ways of coping with problems.
This, off course, is an ineffective way of coping. Another problem is that there may also be poor communication or interaction between the primary care givers and the child’s school. Parents may not have a clear picture about the child’s behaviour at school. Likewise, the school may be clueless about the child’s behaviour at home. This does not end here. The child may be too idle after school and over the weekends due to lack of or limited recreational activities in the community. What about the child’s emotional well-being? Has he/she lost a significant other such as a parent or sibling? Has the child dealt effectively with the loss?
All these factors are some of the challenges that children may be facing. Therefore, using drugs may be seen as communicating distress for the needs not met.
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