By Gassimu S. I. Fofana
Young people are increasingly abusing drugs, which is very concerning to all well-meaning Sierra Leoneans. Substance abuse has over the past few years, significantly jeopardized our generation’s future. Its ubiquitous effect has spread throughout communities all over the country, destroying lives and shattering dreams in its wake. As a nation, we have had our own share of the menace and it is more prevalent today than it has ever been. This was the motivation behind the drug sensitization my office (Freetown Terminal Limited- www.freetownterminal.com) initiated two years ago in communities (Moa Wharf and Seaside) surrounding our operational area to engage youths about the dangers of drugs. Officials from the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) were engaged to facilitate that sensitization.
There are numerous factors that influence or cause young people to be more susceptible to drug misuse. Some of these factors may include peer pressure, genetic predisposition, social context, mental health conditions, trauma/depression, a lack of positive coping mechanisms, drug availability, hopelessness, severe stress et cetera. Substance misuse habits are frequently the result of a complicated interplay of these elements. Youths who become involved in drug misuse are caught in a terrible circle of addiction which has a relentless hold on their lives. Due to drug misuse, relationships break down, academic performance decreases, and a downward spiral toward criminal activity often follows. The cost to emotional and physical health is significant, and it makes it challenging to break the cycle of hopelessness.
Combating drug abuse necessitates a multifaceted approach that includes prevention, treatment, law enforcement, education, and community involvement. By effectively combating drug abuse, a nation can mitigate impediments to national development and build a healthier, more productive, and wealthier society.
In this article, the complex topic of how drugs affect young people’s lives will be examined, shedding light on its causes, consequences, and the pressing need for preventative measures.
According to Statistics Sierra Leone’s 2015 Census Report, eight out of ten people are under the age of 35 years. Sierra Leone happens to have one of the most youthful demographics in the world. That fact being established and human capital development being a pillar of our government’s priority, it is important to declare drug abuse a national emergency. The growth and advancement of a nation depend heavily on the development of human capital. This does not only include a person’s education and talent(s) but also health and general well-being. Collectively all of these contribute to the economic and social development of a country. However, the prevalence and rampant abuse of drugs such as KUSH, has the potential to seriously impair development, impacting individuals, families, and entire communities. Through a multidimensional approach, a lot can be achieved in combating the problem. Prolonged abuse of drugs can alter brain chemistry and significantly cause cognitive impairment.
Drug abuse can significantly increase when it is easily accessed and available. The likelihood of experimentation and subsequent addiction is also increased by easy access to prescription pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter medications, and illegal substances. This problem has become more complicated because of the financial reward that comes with it. You have many people (some allegedly people in high places) involved in smuggling these substances into the country thereby making them easily accessible to youths. Drug usage can also be influenced by biological predispositions. Some persons may be more susceptible to the pleasurable effects of drugs due to genetics.
Additionally, people may be more inclined to seek out medications that temporarily correct neurochemical imbalances in the brain, such as those caused by dopamine or serotonin deficiency. People can also be influenced by socioeconomic issues. Struggling financially, being unemployed, or not having access to possible education or employment may cause young people to turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism or an escape from their problems. These and so many factors that cannot be covered in this article are responsible for substance misuse. Those who abuse drugs have no excuse to do so, however, for the most part are victims of a society that functions in ways that do not give them hope.
Drug addiction prevention is not just the job of government; it is a team effort including people, families, communities, and institutions. We can take steps toward a nation where drug addiction is reduced and people live healthy, productive lives free from the negative impacts of substance abuse by understanding the risk factors, putting evidence-based strategies into practice, and creating supportive surroundings. Never forget that prevention today means a healthier and brighter tomorrow for everyone.