If only I was kidding or minimizing this statement above but unfortunately I’m not. As an addiction counsellor I have been watching the sharp rise in the prevalence of addiction in adolescents and over 35’s for sometime now and it’s not getting any better. South Africa is one of the top 5 substance abusing countries in the world. That’s right top 5!!
The question of course is why? And what can I do if I’m a parent of an addict or if you just want to ensure that your child doesn’t land up in rehab whilst costing you another bond on your house?
Firstly acknowledge that there is indeed a huge problem out there and no matter where you go there will be drugs available. Also accept that there is a 90% chance at some stage your child will be offered drugs. Good schools and neighbourhoods are no longer indicators of whether there are drugs around. Also accept that drug use the new norm, it is socially acceptable and definitely encouraged. With the debate raging about legalizing marijuana this has become even more apparent. I have even heard of doctors who are prescribing marijuana even though it is still illegal in this country!
Establishing a sound relationship with your child is crucial, they need to be heard and if you’re not around to hear them, they will go somewhere else. Help them to take ownership and responsibility for their futures and teach them these values. Important: Children under 15 who are introduced to alcohol are 4 times more likely to end up with a alcohol dependency problem than those who are taught responsible drinking habits. Alcohol is the substance most easily abused and causes more deaths than any other substance. Professionals are also calling alcohol the new gateway substance.
Adolescents are naturally thrill seekers and high risk takers. The prefrontal cortex which controls decision making in adolescents is not fully developed until between the ages of 25-28 years. This means that adolescents are constantly looking for the next thrill or excitement activity. Introduce them to any kind of unnatural high such such alcohol, nicotine or chemical substances and their brain latches onto this with reckless abandonment and you have a young addict in the making who will struggle to see danger in their activities.
If you suspect drug use do not leave it or excuse it by saying “it’s just a phase”, call a professional!