Drug and Substance Abuse: The Red Lines and Green Lights
By Fr Samuel Wachira
Dearest teens and youths, welcome to the holidays, a time to rest and relax after a grueling year in school. It is however, also a time to watch out and to be careful. That’s why I want us to talk about drugs and substances.
A year ago, I decided to pen down a book, “A Spiders Web,” that dwells on the scourge of drug abuse amongst the youth of today. This decision was triggered by an almost weekly contact with a young person who was wrestling with this chilling phenomenon.
In the process of writing this book, I encountered pain, not just of the victims of the drug menace, but also that of their families. A woman who has spent a fortune trying to rehabilitate a son, and one who tells you that she is willing to pay a ton just to get her son back, are testaments of pain and desperation.
Then I encountered regrets. Victims who glance back at their lives and mourn over opportunities lost and lives wasted. The truth is that in drug abuse, there can never be gains, only regrets.
An editor friend who relished the book and decided to review it told me, “It’s a nice book, but so many people die!” I told him that this couldn’t have been helped because the last chapter in the narrative of drug and substance abuse is always marked by a grave.
It is important that young people become aware that drugs and substance abuse is a highly risky affair. Incidentally, the hallmark of youthful life, right from teenage, is blighted by a devilish desire to experiment, explore new grounds, and test the boundaries.
The youth at times get bored for they miss the thrills of life. They want to relieve boredom, experience the feel good atmosphere, forget their troubles and earn some relaxation. Curiosity and youthful life are like Siamese twins. It’s not uncommon to find young people experimenting with danger, done with the aura of childish bravely. As the old adage goes, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. The boiling testosterone excites bravado, and the youth don’t know what they are getting into until it’s done. They want to show all and sundry that they are tough, independent and grownup. In achieving these, the youth turn to drugs and by the time they realize that they took the wrong turn, it’s too late to turn back. It is because of this that I want us to dwell on the risk factors (redlines) and the protective factors (green lights) around drug abuse.
Before we go through the risk factors, it is important to point out that the first redline is the infamous, “easy to get in, difficult to get out,” phrase. Young people must be conscious of the fact that it is easy to get into drugs, but very hard to get out, probably the hardest thing you will encounter below the sun.
Statistics reveal that out of a 100 victims who attempt rehabilitation only twenty actually make it out successfully. The costs of rehabilitation are prohibitive, totaling a fortune. Drugs cost you a lot more than just money. Drugs, just like alcohol have been known to kill individuals, careers, families, opportunities and many other things. The most painful thing is that at the end of it all, all you have left are regrets and the pain of lost and missed opportunities.
Risk factors form fertile ground where the risk of taking drugs can easily sprout. These are the chinks in the armor which must be sealed if the war against addiction is to be won.
Low grades in school and a feeling of being useless can easily lead a youth to try drugs. To counter this, we must always remember that we don’t solve a problem by creating another. Bullying is another monster that is misleading young people into the pit. Young people feel they are incomplete if they don’t belong to a specific group. Drug rings in schools bully the innocent ones and make them feel uneasy by being the odd ones out. In case the youth has low self- esteem, chances are that they will be bullied into submission.
The home environment plays a crucial role in determining if there are risks or not. Permissive parenting spells danger. If there is a parent or an elder family member who is using drugs, chances are that the youth will fall into the trap. Youths who live in a community where drugs and alcohol are abused will be vulnerable.
A lax School System is another risk factor. Survey shows that at least 70% of the youth who have fallen into the trap of drugs trace the root of the problem to the schools they attended. The last of the risk factors is the in belief that there proper drug use. Innocent youths are conned into believing that there is no harm in using drugs if they are used ‘properly’ a myth that has led many into the dungeons.
To counter the risky factors, we have the green lights or protective factors. These are simple tidbits or characteristics that help reduce the risks of drug use.
As the youth we are encouraged to have a strong bond with our parents and guardians. When we bond with persons who love and care for us, there is a strong feeling of protection and worth. This will certainly help build our self- esteem. When we become aware of how precious we are to our parents, then we will be more careful. Parents are also advised to have regular talks with the youth over the issue of drugs. This helps to create awareness and above all make sure that the youth are forewarned.
Parents and teachers should encourage the youth to read a lot about drugs. This helps the youth to be informed and empowered. The triple axis of home- school- and community must be completely drug free. If our ambience will be clean then our safety will be guaranteed. For our holidays to be fruitful, the password is ‘stay busy’. Faith based activities are indispensible when it comes to fighting the devil of idleness and boredom.
We encourage the youth to join clubs and involve themselves in games and constructive pastimes. Prayer groups, debate sessions, and group activities will help create a sense of solidarity. Let the youth remember: there is security in numbers. Finally, let us erect a big banner in our homes, at the church and in our community for all the youth to read, reflect and understand: DRUGS ARE DANGEROUS: Don’t risk. Have a happy and drug free holiday.
Fr Samuel Wachira is the author of “A Spiders Web,” a book that revolves around the dangers of drugs and addictions.