Drugs, alcohol and other substances of abuse have become an in-thing among the young especially our school going age, myths on drugs have been taken as the truth as they indulge unknowing that they have just crippled their future.
Of the outreach programmes done last year it was evident that among the eight-year-olds to the 12-year-old bracket three out of eight would have experimented with drugs or alcohol and seven out of 10 among the 13-year-olds to 18 would be fully engaged in the use of drugs and alcohol.
This is indicative of a drug and substance abuse dependent, unhealthy and unproductive generation being bred, much so because of ignorance, and more so because there are no proper help places set in our nation.
This is of paramount importance if a drug-free healthy and productive generation should emerge.
There is strong evidence that children and young people’s substance use is linked with poor physical and mental health, for instance tobacco smoking is linked with smoking difficulties, asthma and rhinitis and adult cancer.
Frequent cannabis (mbanje) use has been linked to a number of physical health conditions such as respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease and chronic bronchitis symptoms.
Acute health effects of cannabis use include increased anxiety, panic reactions and psychotic symptoms, as well as increased risk of mortality.
Children and young people’s harmful alcohol use is associated with poor adult physical health conditions including gastrointestinal conditions, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and increased risk of infectious diseases due to a weakened immune system and unintentional injuries.
Furthermore, harmful use of alcohol in children and young people is linked with neurocognitive effects and reduced brain functioning.
Likewise, similar mental health consequences and health risk behaviours including sexual risks, as well as delinquency and violence, are linked to use of alcohol and drugs in children and young people as evidenced by the parties they are hosting for themselves.
Alcohol and drug use disorders are responsible for considerable loss of healthy life years (disability-adjusted life years or DALYs) among children and young people as they fall into the drug alcohol dependency and addiction.
As mentioned earlier, the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs is often entwined with mental health issues.
These may affect school engagement, and substance use has thus been linked with a number of negative education-related outcomes globally, including poor educational performance, school drop-out, incompletion of secondary school and post-secondary education and the increasing cases of youths in mental health centres.
The earlier substance use begins, the more likely that negative immediate consequences and long-term impact will occur.
A pattern of getting drunk and drinking frequently from an early age is particularly harmful, and increases the likelihood of an immediate and ongoing impact on the brain, social problems, school engagement (e.g. suspension and truancy).
Early adolescent cannabis use has also been consistently found to be associated with poor school performance and early school leaving.
The heavier the use, the lower the attainment of grades.
-Mthandazo Ndlovu is a drug prevention and rehabilitation specialist. For more information call or WhatsApp 00263772399734 or email firstname.lastname@example.org