Teenagers are known for their experimental nature and according to the Hanover Park Day Hospital, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse is most likely to occur between Grades 8 and 9.
This was revealed at a health awareness programme at Summit Primary School in Hanover Park last Wednesday, August 15, where nurses from the Hanover Park Day Hospital, and staff and former substance abusers from the Sultan Bahu Centre addressed Grade 7 pupils about the dangers of drug abuse.
Health promotion officer at the Hanover Park Day Hospital, Emre Uygun informed pupils about the hospital’s adolescent and youth friendly programme, which will be available on Wednesdays from 3pm to 6pm weekly and will focus on social support, family planning, HIV counselling, mental health, chronic disease prevention, pregnancy, nutrition and weight, and youth employment skills.
Teachers at the school will be supplied with evaluation forms and refer pupils to the hospital.
Mr Uygun said that 70% of youth who attend the programme were substance abusers.
“Our goal is to get to the root of the problem. The most common cause of substance abuse is domestic violence, which includes different types of abuse. In Grade 7 and 8 you start smoking cigarettes and before you know it, it’s too weak and you become addicted to marijuana, and then tik,” he said.
Shireen Botha, from the Sultan Bahu Centre, who was a victim of abuse and use to abuse substances, said experimenting with drugs can have detrimental consequences, including getting caught up in prostitution and crime.
“You start off with a bad attitude and rebel against your parents and teachers and start adopting bad habits. Before you know it you are addicted to a substance but you blame everyone else and never take responsibility for your actions and faults.
“You blame your home economics, and often blame it on a lack of parenting,” she said.
She advised pupils to be obedient to their parents and share their feelings and emotions with a friend or teacher instead of resorting to drugs.
“Drugs will bring you nowhere in life, finish school and be committed to your goals, finish matric,” she said.
Ms Botha said the most common reasons why people abuse substances are depression, sexual frustration, the pressure of their responsibilities, a craving for adrenaline, disappointment, lack of communication, isolation and boredom.
She said a substance abuser will go back for more every time because of how it makes them feel.
This includes increased energy levels, high sex drive, socialising better, seemingly having more friends and feeling more alert.
“But it also has negative effects such as low energy, low sex drive, being unable to communicate, ill-health, breaking up of families, diseases, false friendship, and losing your job,” she said.
Grade 7 pupil Muneerah Hendricks said many people are not aware of the different rehabilitation centres available to them and with the help of the programme she hopes to spread the awareness.
Jade Solomon, from Hanover Park, said the most commonly used drugs in the area are tik, heroin and dagga.
“People use it because they have problems and they are traumatised and the drugs make them feel better and calms them down,” she said.
Tenelle Lamorah, 13, agreed and said that gang violence often leads to drug abuse.
“Some people go to rehab but they come out and relapse because of household problems and a lot of them are verbally abused,” she said
Ms Botha advised pupils to immedately seek solutions once they notice themselves becoming addicted to drugs.
“Seek family counselling, communicate, change your mindset, and do not expect too much from yourself. Pray, keep busy with work, and admit to your faults. Participate in activities, get some spiritual upliftment, and manage your affairs well,” she said.