EDITORIAL: Additional effort needed to prevent substance abuse among the youth

Thursday September 15 2022
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In recent months, security agencies have intensified the fight against drug trafficking amid reports of increasing substance abuse among the youth. The substances that are most commonly abused are alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.

In particular, there is growing concern over underage people who attend public concerts visibly drunk while others smoke cannabis. For many parents, the challenge is how their children below the age of 18 easily access these drugs, including in schools.

While all schools prohibit the use of drugs, reports indicate it is usually casual staff at the institutions who take money from students and supply them with drugs. In some homes, children end up abusing drugs because their parents use them and fail to keep them away. It is also common in some families to let children taste alcohol, putting them at risk of becoming addicted.

Some children end up dropping out of school or lose their jobs due to drug addiction. Others are isolated by their families.

As a result of the growing drug abuse, there are increasingly cases of mental health issues among the youth. Research shows that drugs are especially dangerous for young people because their brains are growing and developing until they are in their mid-20's:

Especially for the prefrontal cortex, which is used to make decisions. Taking drugs when young can interfere with developmental processes occurring in the brain.


They may be more likely to do risky things, such as engage in unprotected sex and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The earlier young people start using drugs, the greater their chances of continuing to take them and become addicted later in life.

Taking drugs when young can contribute to the development of adult health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders. The government has put in place strategies to fight against drug trafficking and abuse.

These include setting up rehabilitation centres that offer vocational skills to former drug abusers, organising campaigns to sensitise the general population,and decentralising mental health services.

This is commendable, but it is not enough. Tougher measures are needed to prevent drug trafficking, and sensitise parents to do more to protect and prevent their children from being exposed to drugs.

It important to address the underlying complex issues that may led to drug abuse, including stressful early life experiences such child abuse and other forms of trauma.

This is in addition to lack of parental supervision as many spend more time at work than with their families. Drug use and addiction are preventable. Prevention programmes involving families, schools, communities, and the media may prevent or reduce drug use and addiction.

These programmes include education and outreach to help people understand the risks of drug use.