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Cultivating a safer generation of youth

by Salaamedia Intern

The new generation of youth are caught up in a reflection of societies shortcomings. The impact of substance abuse in society has projected itself on the new generation. We have seen a new culture develop, in which society has enabled the new generation to live a potentially destructive lifestyle

In the past years we have seen an insurgence in cases of substance abuse in the country. The latest South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) stats in the financial year 1st April 2021 to 31st March 2022 revealed that 13 925 clients were treated. This is an increase of 30% in the previous year. Nazar Loonat, the outreach coordinator at SANCA, revealed the reasoning behind this increase.

“The impact of covid on addiction with a hard lockdown, I think is what awakened us and made us concentrate on the extent of addiction particularly with regards to alcohol and tobacco-related products within our country. We can see this from the desperation in the consumption of alcohol and we’ve seen home concoctions that were now replacing your retail outlet. The consumption of the zombie concoction obviously registered a high number of deaths. We’ve seen the black-market trading of alcohol and tobacco products increase and we’ve seen something rather new when liquor outlets were getting robbed, not for money, but for alcohol as a result of the lockdown.”

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How this affects this generation of youth

In the latest stats released by the United Nations report, it revealed that “South African youth are especially vulnerable to substance experimentation and long-term use whether it be alcohol, illicit drugs, over-the-counter, and or prescription medicine.” Society has influenced this new culture, that is an enabler of this statistic. Nazia Saloojee, life coach at SANCA, highlighted contributing factors to why this generation you might abuse these substances.

“There’s a range of different reasons. Contributing factors. We’ve got mental health issues that are absolutely taking over in young people, we’re talking about depression. We’re talking about fetal alcohol syndrome, and teenage pregnancy. We’ve got so many things that contribute to them having suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide and self-mutilation. We’ve got a lack of recreational institutions and facilities in our communities. Young people have turned to drinking and smoking as their recreational activity of choice and it speaks to what kind of models and value systems we model as a society.”

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How to create a safer environment

Whilst there is no step-by-step blueprint to follow to combat this issue, there are tips and guides we can follow to assist. As a society, we need to learn to reflect a culture that would be considered beneficial for the youth. We also need to become more open regarding talks surrounding mental illnesses, as this one of the leading contributing factors of substance abuse. We need to create a sense of togetherness amongst everyone, so no one ever feels isolated or alone no matter the situation.

The next generation of youth rely heavily on what society depicts and how its lifestyle is depicted. It is vital that society represents a culture that is safe and accommodating to the next generation.

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