Kids taking drugs, a big problem

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Psychoactive Drugs - Photograph: Wikipedia

We need to talk about drugs and how some of our children are becoming addicts, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.

A recent report by Persatuan Anti Dadah Aids Malaysia (PADM) identified rampant drug use among children as young as 10.

The association suggested that these children were “influenced by certain quarters who exploited them to become drug addicts so that they would do drug distribution to support the habit”. Unfortunately, this is nothing new.

In 2015, the National Anti-Drug Agency Malaysia (AADK) highlighted the distressing annual increase of drug abuse prevalent among students of primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions. According to AADK statistics, 15,408 youths were found to be addicted to drugs in 2013, with the number increasing to 15,897 in 2014.

Drug abuse among the younger generation in Malaysia is a critical pandemic because addicts are becoming younger.

We know the dangers of smoking cigarettes and are well aware that nearly 100% of smoking addiction is developed during adolescence – while the brain is still being formed. Smoking cigarettes, like other “harder, illegal” drugs, hinders the development of neurons and synapses.

As society progresses in the 21st century, our children are also being exposed to a variety of substances – uppers and downers – drugs that can easily be obtained over the counter as well as in the blackmarket.

In 1970, Malaysia only had 711 registered drug addicts but by 2008, a total of 250,000 were reported. Researchers claim that these numbers are expected to reach half a million in the next few years. Studies conducted by AADK also identified the high relapse rate of 50% among former addicts.

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Now, let those figures sink in.

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences of Monash University Malaysia published reports listing the main factors causing drug abuse among Malaysian youth, with the top two being peer influence and curiosity. These were followed closely by “family factors, such as parental behaviour, family relationships, home atmosphere and economic standing”.

Now, armed with that knowledge, society can and should play a major role in helping steer our children away from drug abuse. There should be prevention education programmes to create awareness among families, groups and communities.

Since peer pressure has been identified as one of the main factors, it is only logical to develop a peer-based support programme as a method of deterrence. These programmes should also be customised, based on relevance in terms of demography, economic status and residential surroundings (ie villages, flats, rural or urban, etc.).

We should also factor in the variety of recreational activities that youths participate in, whether high-risk or low-risk, as these can help us understand the psychological aspects of possible addiction or addictive behaviour that they might be inclined to develop.

We also need to recognise the importance of emphasising family values as an integral part of intervention strategy. Cohesive structure and communication are both familial factors strongly identified as protective aspects that can prevent future drug abuse among our children.

Our role is to spearhead a more realistic approach to discourage our children and to stunt the appeal of drugs by developing new ways to reach out to them. Society needs to stop preaching abstinence and start being realistic about prevention and education.

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Most importantly, we need to talk to our children and discuss the dangers of drug addiction, without sugar-coating the horrors, if we want the message to stick.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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