Substance abuse by youths now labeled as “junkies “ remains a growing social challenge in my community (Chilenje). This is because, youths have continued to abuse drugs, mainly a white powdered substance popularly known as “volo” and brewed fermented alcohol known as “kachaso”. The consumption of these drug has negatively affected both the users and the community at large. It has led to youths indulging into criminal activities and delinquent behavior such as violence. Several residents in the community have raised complaints about the rise in the number of criminal activities. They said that even in broad day light some youths break into homes to steal property. Of which I personally can attest to. The abuse of drugs has equally led to poor academic performance in schools as well as an increase in the number of drop outs.
I recently conducted a quick interview around the community, where I spoke to a few teenagers and youths. During this interview I found out that many youths have indulged themselves into drugs because of their vulnerability to peer presence and pressure. Some said they indulge into drugs to earn respect from their peers so that they can be labeled as cool. Others do it because of changes in their personality during their maturity stage(puberty) which causes them to be stressed out and confused, hence finding comfort in taking drugs. Others said, the consumption of drugs helps them forget about academic stress and family pressure. I further learnt that most of these youths and teenagers have neglected the thoughts and impact the drugs they consume have on them and their health.
To remedy this problem, I strongly suggest that advocates in the community should come up with or create a group, which they can use to sensitize teenagers, youths as well as parents on the effects of drug abuse and consumption. They should work together with schools in the community and advise them to create orientation and educational programs or clubs that will help educate and orient not only the pupils but people in the community, on the impact of drug abuse and how it not only affects them but the community around them. The schools and advocates can also partner up with local NGOs, action groups and rehabilitation centers who will provide Counseling, programs on attitude change and behavioral change. This will provide and act as a safe space where youths can open up about their problems with individuals who have clear understanding about what they are going through, and they can receive constructive and actionable feedback.
Empowerment strategies such as community projects should also be set up to help youths focus on gaining and developing new skills, this will help grow the community as youth will spend most of their time doing constructive activities and not abusing drugs.
Bar owners or liquor store owners should equally be cautioned and warned about selling alcohol to children under the prescribed legal age which is 18. Failure to comply to this, their licenses should be revoked, or their liquor stores are to be closed or they should be fined.
I further suggest that once in a while youths and teenagers should have an insaka or Ichibwanse were they sit down with each other in the presence of a counselor or adult in the community who will educate them on the changes they will experience during the stage of puberty and what to expect so that they don’t fall into a place where they completely zone out and indulge into drugs. When we enforce the solutions stated and work together as a community we can eradicate and put a stop to the abuse of drugs by youths as well as put a stop to the delinquent activities in the community.