Feature Article of Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Columnist: Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi

Let’s talk more about drug abuse in our schools now

Drug -abused tsunami is about to hit our schools and colleges, but how prepared are we?

WE’RE ON THE VERGE of losing this generation and, possibly the next one to drug abuse, however, our policy - makers are fighting it with rhetoric .Our fragile and infant democracy is threatened if we don’t wake up now and do something drastic about this menace.

You think the brain- drain is bad for the country? Wait until you witness the dangerous effects of the youth’s brains being in the drain constantly because of drugs!

Drug abuse is taking over our schools, neighborhoods, communities and towns and, there are no comprehensive programs in place to deal with its effects vigorously. Perhaps, we see the drug abuse in Ghana as a plague, only infecting the poor and students from disadvantaged homes. Well, think again because your kids behind the gated communities are not immune.

Listen to this: I read in one report that out of the 731 drug-related patients admitted into our Psychiatric Hospital, 690 were students from tertiary institutions. The report also said, 614 patients in our Psychiatric hospital were young people, between the age of 15 and 40.It was also in the news years ago that the proliferation of high drugs in SHS in Cape Coast and other parts of the nation was very alarming.

I’m filled with dread of the thought of the trauma of millions innocent Ghanaians who will soon be enduring if this drug abuse epidemic is not well-managed or controlled.

In fact, I’m nervous when I think of the dangerous effects of drug abused on the nation because I have spent the major part of my professional life ‘fighting’ and dealing with the victims and dangerous effects of drug abused.

Why should we focus more on this issue like a laser beam in this side of the Atlantic? Well, if we don’t sooner than later the government will be forced to spend over three times as much per mental patient as per a student in SHS when things start to fall part uncontrollably.

The real effects of drug abuse:

The real effects of drug abuse are not even the random homicide, other unnecessary deaths and serious addiction that go with the drug trade and consumption. However, the question is how is our handicapped police force or over-stretched medical delivery system going to handle such unprepared social tsunami? My main concern is the general rise in crime rate that inevitably goes with the drug abuse.

I have witnessed people who had sold their children, souls and bodies because of drug. Yes, I have seen addicts who had killed their own family members because of drug abuse. I have seen people who sold their possessions for drugs. I have seen very affluent families that went from grace to grass because of drugs. I have seen people who have engaged in burglary and armed robbery just to maintain their addiction lifestyle. In essence, no one is secured or immune when it comes to drug abuse.

Parental Roles:

As parents, we have very important roles to play in this .Yes chances are your children will never take any drug or alcohol. However, if you don’t get them hooked on something important and meaningfully at their early years, someone will introduce them to drugs. It’s believed that when children are hooked on interesting things, like books or musical instruments, their chances of taking drugs are very small. So try to push books on your kids.

Reading can be a healthy, lifetime addiction. It can also help children to learn how to think independently. Books are fun, relatively cheaper and, produce a sensible and admirable ‘high’. And, best of all, nobody ever ended up in an emergency room, jail, mental institution or mortuary for reading too much. It’s about time parents become the real “pushers” .If we don’t someone will hook them on drugs very fast.

Visit your child’s school and learn how drug education is being taught.
Parents can also do the following to prevent their child’s drug usage:

1) Get to know your child’s friends and their parents.

2) Counteract peer influence with parental influence by reinforcing your no-alcohol/no-drug-use rules and expectations.

3) Continue to spend private time with your child to discuss what your child feels and fears.

4) Plan strategies to limit your teen’s unsupervised hours at home, while you are at work.

5) Talk to your kids about joining a sports, drama, arts, or dance clubs or volunteering to work for a church group or community organization. The busier your teenager is; the less likely he or she is to be bored and to seek an outlet in alcohol or other drugs.

6) Make sure your teen has access to up-to-date information on alcohol and other drugs and their dangerous effects.

7) Talk with your teenager about the future .Discuss your expectations and your teenager’s ambitions and, plan family outing to local colleges and universities.

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD IS USING ALCOHOL OR OTHER DRUGS?

Young people use drugs for many reasons that have to do with how they feel about themselves, how they get along with others, and how they live. No one factor determines who will use drugs and who will not, but here are some predictors:

a) Low grade or poor school performances.

b) Aggressive, rebellion behavior.

c) Excessive influence by peers.

d) Lack of parental support and guidance.

e) Behavior problems at an early age.

f) Sudden change of friends.

g) When the child seems withdrawn, depressed, tired, and careless about personal grooming.

h) Sudden lost of interest in hobbies, sports, and other favorite activities.

I) The Possession of drug paraphernalia like pipe, rolling papers, small medicine bottles, eye drops, or butane lighters can signal drug abuse behavior.

The Role of schools: A serious and comprehensive ‘Drug abuse education’ program should form a major part of our school curriculum (from elementary to SHS).

There is a need to ask these questions if we really want to prevent drug abuse in our schools:

Are the faculty members trained to teach about alcohol and other drugs use? Is drug education a regular part of the curriculum or limited to special week? Is it taught through the health class or do all teachers incorporate drug education into their subject area. Do children in every grade receive drug education, or is it limited to selected grades? Is there a component for parents?

Schools should also develop strong policies that spell out rules governing the use, possession, and sale of alcohol and other drugs. Good school policies typically specify what constitutes an alcohol or other drug offense, spell out the consequences for violating the policy, describe procedures for handling violations, and build community support for the policy.

The role of society and government: It’s nice to have free SHS and national health insurance coverage, but they are not enough. A “healthy” or “vibrant” nation is a nation that has a complete physical, mental and social balance and, not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity.

To protect the citizenry, there is a need to implement public policies that provide information on the serious effects of the consumption of any medically un-prescribed drug. We also have to stop glorifying alcoholic drinks through our advertisement on the airwaves.

To prevent drug abuse and other drug –related impulses we have to promote real hope. The youth should be given a sense of hope and reasons to be hopeful for the future and, a chance to dream beyond its own imaginations.
Show me a hopeless and hapless society and I will show you a nation full of youth that is prone to anger, diseases, self-destruction, drug use and less respect for life.

Hopeless and pessimistic people can’t love and be loved. Hopeless people live on borrowed time, and can easily drug themselves to death.

When marijuana usage or dependency (smoking and drinking it) has become a new trend among our teenagers in our towns, villages and neighborhoods we can’t no more deny that drug abuse in Ghana has reached its zenith.

Yes, some people will continue to use drugs regardless of what we say or do, therefore, all we can do as a society is to identify some commonly abused drugs, their possible effects, how they’re used, and their characteristics. By so doing maybe (just maybe) we will be able to protect the young ones from this epidemic.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (Voice of Reason)

*The author is a social commentator.