Pretoria - Residents of Eersterust have expressed concern about the sharp rise in drug abuse in the area in recent years, especially among children.
Concerned Parents Association of Eersterust’s Desiree Fisher said the percentage of children aged 12 to 17 who have seen people selling drugs was higher.
“The cause for concern is that the illicit substances being sold are seemingly very lethal. We have seen an increase in the number of deaths of young people in Eersterust.”
Fisher said factors that contributed to the emergence of substance abuse in the child population were multi-factorial: behavioural, emotional and environmental.
“Childhood abuse has been implicated as a significant risk factor for later substance use.
“Children who are physically abused are 1.58 times likely to abuse drugs than their non-abused counterparts.
“Children seem more influenced by environmental factors in the home and at school: unkempt, crowded, noisy, disorderly conditions where there is little emphasis on conventions and religion.
“Many children who experienced emotional neglect in their early childhood are saddled with unmet emotional needs and prone to substance use,” Fisher said.
Raylene Jacobs of the Community Oriented Substance Use Programme in Eersterust said the curiosity of children was among things that may lead to them doing drugs.
“Boredom is a cause, for example; no sport or extramural activities and children do what they see and not what they hear or are told.
“Lack of discipline at home and lack of communication between parents and children leaves some children with no boundaries. And peer pressure is also a factor.”
Fisher added: “The church should take part in the fight against drug and substance abuse.
“Once the drug use starts, children hallucinate and start stealing. They don’t want to attend school.
“Poor school functioning and easy drop out hamper their emotional and intellectual development.”
Fisher said the direct and indirect effects of alcohol and other drugs on children led to many adverse health and safety risks for the child, family and community.
“Substance use and abuse in the child population carries a higher risk for school under-achievement, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, rape, human trafficking, prostitution, depression and suicide.
“Illicit drug use is associated with an increased risk of contracting HIV.
“Inadvertent passive drug exposure in babies has resulted in multiple medical complications, including respiratory illnesses, seizures, altered mental status and foetal alcohol syndrome.”
Recommended preventive interventions by the individuals include the understanding of risk and protective factors that may affect the development of substance abuse, and should be a first step in ameliorating the problem of drug use in the child population.
Another intervention was that substance abuse may be “remediated” through prevention and intervention programmes that use “research-based, comprehensive, culturally relevant, social resistance skills training and normative education in an active school-based learning format”.
Fisher said prevention curricula should be developed for children from preschool ages to young adulthood.
“Among the most widely disseminated and promoted curricula are the Drug Abuse Resistance Education curricula in America.
“Life skills training was found to be effective in lowering tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use in a six-year randomised field trial involving 3 597 New York State students in 56 high schools.
“As an early intervention, parents need to seek help as soon as possible. They should make it clear that drug use is dangerous and not acceptable in their households.”
Fisher said prevention efforts should focus on social and interpersonal influence models, and involve a comprehensive systems approach, “like age-appropriate and culturally relevant”.
“Normative education and resistance skills development to promote drug abstinence is necessary. Parents lack adequate knowledge regarding the effects of drug use. Thus, prevention efforts involve the dissemination of information.”
Elosine Aucamp of the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence said parents and educators needed to provide healthy emotional boundaries.
“Parents should discuss possible options of assistance, and seek help and emotional support during and after treatment.
“Parents need to assess their own behaviour and use of legal or illegal substances. They also need to spend quality time with their children,” Aucamp said.