Addiction rate climbs among school kids

Cape Town 16-02-11 - Police do a search and seize raid at Groenvlei school in Landsdowne -Here Irene a narcotics dog checks out the childrens bags Picture Brenton Geach Reporter Michelle Jones

Cape Town 16-02-11 - Police do a search and seize raid at Groenvlei school in Landsdowne -Here Irene a narcotics dog checks out the childrens bags Picture Brenton Geach Reporter Michelle Jones

Published Apr 9, 2013


Johannesburg - The story of a nine-year-old Centurion pupil caught selling drugs at school - allegedly for his parents - has highlighted the severity of drug use among school children.

The trend, if research studies are anything to go by, is a reflection of the growing rate of substance abuse.

The Anti Drug Alliance South Africa’s 2012 annual survey, which gathered data from over 57 000 respondents, showed that more people were using drugs than ever.

Among teenagers, 69 percent of the respondents said drugs were available to buy at their schools.

About 34 percent of the teenage respondents admitted to having used drugs in the past six months.

About 32 percent said they’d taken drugs over the past month and 27 percent said they’d used within the past week.

The respondents said the most readily available drugs at their schools, as other surveys also showed, was marijuana, followed by cat, tik and then cocaine.

Nyaope - a mixture of antiretrovirals, rat poison, marijuana and heroin, among other things - is also popular among pupils.

The SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) said there was an “alarming increase” of people under the age of 21 in treatment centres.

The number of children under 13 years using drugs increased by 3 percent during 2011/12.

During the same time, children under 17 made up 22 percent of people in treatment centres - a 2 percent increase.

According to Sanca, the majority of people in treatment centres had booked themselves in.

The second-largest group constituted people who were referred to treatment centres by their families or friends. The third-largest group were referrals by schools.

Erika Nel from Sanca Horizon in Boksburg, said the clinic sees the highest increase in drug use among children in the 15-19 age group.

Increasingly younger children were starting to experiment with drugs, she said.

“Drugs have become more accessible than they were in the past and children have more unsupervised time than they did in the past.”

Nel said the prevalence of crime and gangs that required members to use drugs, coupled with unsupervised time, also spurred drug usage.

For some children, using drugs initially stems from curiosity.

“For others it’s peer pressure, or emotional, physical and economic deprivation.

“Some do it to take away the pain… hunger pains, emotional pain, physical pain… there are as many reason as there are children,” Nel said.

She said poor role modelling by parents and older siblings who also used drugs pushed young children into using.

Siphokazi Dada, a scientist at the Medical Research Council’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Unit, said family members were a great influence on children’s drug habits.

“Alcohol is socially acceptable and parents say they’d rather allow their children to drink in front of them so that they know exactly what’s going on… what they don’t realise is that they could be opening the gateway to alcohol abuse and other drugs,” Dada said.

The Anti Drug Alliance survey found that 60 percent of the 16-year-olds who were part of the survey had already consumed alcohol with the consent of their parents.

Dada also said the age that children started using drugs was falling, with children as young as seven and eight smoking marijuana and inhalants such as glue and petrol.

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The Star

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