The National, Wednesday April 13th, 2016
ALCOHOL and drug abuse among school children and other teens is becoming a contentious issue in major urban centres like Port Moresby and Lae.
Police in the capital city have reported cases of drinking sessions by male and female students that have resulted in violence and criminal acts such as rape.
A female student died last year as a result of alcohol abuse but that tragedy has not deterred others from continuing to join in drinking binges that sometimes last the whole weekend.
The National Capital District police command has warned time and again that many teenagers are putting their lives in danger and their health at risk by drinking, smoking and behaving in a disorderly manner.
Parents have been repeatedly urged to monitor their school children and their peer groups.
And this week, the National Capital District Commission and the National Youth Development Authority joined in the efforts to curb the rising alcohol and drug abuse among teens.
The two organisations conducted a training programme for juveniles at Bomana Prison that highlighted the harmful effects of alcohol and drugs.
NCDC’s Yumi Lukautim Mosbi programme coordinator Lucy Totil told the juveniles that they needed to be educated about this pertinent issue as consumption of drugs and alcohol was increasing among young people.
Bomana Prison commanding officer acting Chief Supt Haraha Keko also stressed the importance of the training programme, saying that situations on drug and alcohol had “gone out of hand and one aspect of controlling this is to run such programmes”.
While there is a growing chorus of concern about this issue, a senior magistrate says the courts would like to be sympathetic towards young offenders but the laws must still be respected. And he warned that students under 18 years old would be prosecuted for alcohol and drugs abuse and any crimes associated with it.
Police have also warned that they will not hesitate to arrest and charge young offenders.
Therefore, the onus is on parents and guardians to ensure that their children do not endanger their lives by joining in drinking binges after school. Research shows that alcohol and drug abuse during teen and young adult years can lead to many problems for those concerned and their families.
Such abuse can lead to skipping school, bad grades, conflict in relationships with friends and peers and unstable family relationships. It can also cause poor brain function, concentration, and other areas of brain development.
Many teenagers get in trouble with the law and end up in court, involved with police and spend time in juvenile detention.
Teens that begin using alcohol and other drugs earlier are more likely to be heavy users and may become addicted and dependent on these substances.
These problems have a negative impact on their personal lives, their future work life, family relationships, friendships, and overall health.
Teens copy what they see the adults in their lives doing, and will use alcohol and drugs to feel more grown up or to rebel against adults. Therefore, it is helpful for parents to give clear messages about the potential dangers and pair those messages with rules and consequences that are firm but fair.
Research shows that there are a number of risk factors that make a teenager more likely to have problems with alcohol and drug abuse in the future. These include individual, family, and community risk factors.
Individual risk factors including being male, having an untreated mental health issue, having low self-esteem, poor grades in school, and poor social and coping skills.
Family risk factors include family history of alcohol and drug abuse, poor modelling from parents, chaos at home, and poor communication between parents and children.
Community risk factors are high incidence of alcohol and drug abuse and availability of drugs in the community.
Research has also found that factors that protect teens from alcohol and drug abuse include parents, peers, community and schools.
Parents who model positive behaviour, have good communication skills, set limits, and supervise their teens can improve the chances that their children will avoid alcohol and drug abuse.
Indeed, alcohol and drug abuse requires the total commitment and concerted efforts of parents, schools and the community to drastically reduce its harmful and even deadly effects on our young generation now and in the future.