Teens told hard truths

2019-10-15 06:01
Grade 11 learners at Oude Molen Technical High School during a drug-awareness talk.

Grade 11 learners at Oude Molen Technical High School during a drug-awareness talk.

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Anyone who has ever tried to reason with a teenager will tell you the chances of winning is small to none. The best you can do is present them with all the facts and then hope and pray they will make the right decision.

During the last leg of a Saps pilot anti-bullying programme at Oude Molen Technical High School, a narcotics expert addressed an auditorium full of Grade 11s. His mission: to inform learners of the various drugs (and habit-forming prescription medicine) out there and its short- and long-term effects on the body.

According to the 2006 World Drug Report, 4.3 million South Africans aged 16 years and older use illegal drugs and 50% of teenagers will use dagga before they graduate.

On hearing the last statistic, a few learners were quick to point out that dagga is no longer illegal in South Africa. (In September 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that it is not a criminal offence for an adult citizen to use, possess or grow cannabis in private for personal consumption.)

But the expert, who cannot be named due to his participation in ongoing investigations, said dagga is still listed as an illegal drug in the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act 140/1992.

He went on to explain how drugs are classified into three categories – suppressants, stimulants and hallucinogens – according to their effect on the central nervous system.

“These drugs mimic the effects that occur naturally in the brain, but on a heightened level. For example, that spike of excitement you feel when the bell rings at the end of the school day,” he says.

When using drugs, the brain is forced to release these chemicals to either get that high or low, depending on what type of substance is used. After continuous abuse, the brain gets tired and loses its ability to produce these chemicals on its own.

“As a result, the long-term abuse of drugs often ends in severe depression and suicide,” he says. A common short-term effect is a spike in blood pressure and heart rate.

“We come across so many cases where 18-year-olds, who have no former record of heart problems, die of heart attacks,” he said.

Learners were encouraged to engage in the session and to ask questions.

Tadiwa, one of the learners present, said that awareness programmes like these were helpful. “I’m glad this session was held. There are a lot of clueless people out there. Now they can get a clue on what the side effects of all these pharmaceuticals are.”

A Pinelands police initiative, the project was launched at the beginning of this year in partnership with Metro Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Victim Support and the Western Cape Department of Education.

In the first term, K9 searches of the premises and research were done to determine the exact safety needs at the school, the Victim Outreach department introduced its services to the learners in the second term and Metro EMS gave learners first-aid training during the third term (People’s Post, “Learners taught life lessons”, 13 August). On Tuesday last week, the Film and Publication Board (FPB) focused on the dangers of cyberbullying followed two days later by a presentation on narcotics.

Constable Quinton George, a driving force behind the initiative, says the programme aimed to not only empower the youth but also to build better relationships between the community and emergency response units. “The programme for this year is completed. We will adjust it next year to focus on the challenges the new decade will bring,” says George.

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