PRESS RELEASE: SUPPORT YOUTH TO COMBAT SUBSTANCE ABUSE
26 June 2017
Every year 26 June is commemorated as International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This year the SA Federation for Mental Health wants to draw specific focus to the issue of youth and substance abuse. Substance abuse often affects people during the years when they should be completing school or finding employment, and the entrapment of youth in drug and alcohol abuse, as opposed to engagement in legitimate employment and educational opportunities, poses distinct barriers to the development of individuals and communities.
Substance abuse among youth has severe effects on our communities and families, and has many potential physical and mental health effects for the users, such as increased risk of injury and death due to either violence or accidents; increased probability of engaging in sexual behaviour with high risk of teen pregnancy and transmittable diseases; and increased risk for suicidal behaviour and psychosocial disorders. Abuse of different substances is furthermore also often the reason for declining grades, high absenteeism and school dropouts as well as involvement in crime and gang-related activities.
Substance abuse can be common among people suffering from mental health conditions. People experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses often turn to drugs or alcohol to find temporary comfort. These substances are also sometimes used as a coping mechanism for those enduring a great deal of stress or hardship, such as experiencing troubles at home or at school, or losing a loved one.
Using drugs or alcohol to deal with difficult feelings or symptoms of mental illness is sometimes called ‘self-medication.’ But it can make existing mental health problems worse. Studies have for example shown that people who consume high amounts of alcohol are vulnerable to higher levels of mental ill health.
According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:
It is vitally important that we educate our youth about the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse, and that we provide them with the emotional and they need so that they do not develop the need to turn to substance use for comfort. It is also essential that parents, teachers and the youth themselves are educated about the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, so that they can identify it early on and get the affected person help as soon as possible.
SAFMH calls on all sectors of society to prioritise the support, education and protection of our youth against substance abuse, and to work together to safeguard their physical and mental health.
Signs of substance abuse -
FOR ENQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
Programme Manager: Information & Awareness
SA Federation for Mental Health
Press Release – 26 June International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
26 June is International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, and this year the theme selected by the United Nations is 'Listen First'. Listen First is an initiative highlighting how listening to children and youth is the first step to helping them grow up healthy and safe, reducing risky behaviours and drug use. More information about the Listen First campaign can be found at https://www.unodc.org/listenfirst/
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2016 shows a rise in the number of problem drug users from 27 to 29 million people aged 15-64, showing that drug abuse continues to be a growing problem worldwide. Children and adolescents who use drugs are often affected by vulnerabilities beyond their control such as poverty and exposure to violence, growing up in homes with a history of substance abuse, and peer pressure. High unemployment, poverty and violent crime rates in South Africa mean that our youth are especially at risk of drug abuse, which could have long lasting negative effects on their mental and physical wellbeing. The earlier children start to experiment with drugs, the more likely they are to develop drug dependence later in life.
SAFMH would like to encourage parents, caregivers, educators and government to make the mental and physical wellbeing of all children and youth in South Africa a priority, and to provide young people with safe and supportive environments that can help them make informed decisions about drug use.
SAFMH Programme Manager Information & Awareness