“SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH – A CHALLENGE TOWARDS ENHANCING A PRODUCTIVE FUTURE FOR STUDENTS”
Winner: Gbatundu Ndeyia Kutubu
School: Sierra Leone Grammar School
Mental Health according to the World Health Organization is: “A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make contributions to his or her community”. Today, there are different kinds of mental health problems but the most common and dangerous occurs as a result of substance abuse which is also known as drug abuse.
Substance and drug abuse on the other hand is described as a specific use of a substance (drug) in which the user consumes the substance in a given amount or other harmful methods which is hazardous to themselves or others. The excessive or addictive use of these drugs for non medical purposes usually defines a state; emotional and sometimes physical, characterized by a compulsion to take them on constant bases in order to experience their mental effect. The effect of drug abuse on an individual forms the bases for its cumulative effect on the society and this is the major danger of drug abuse.
A wide range of drugs are susceptible to abuse by youths, these drugs ranges from most common and less expensive such as cigarette to expensive and more deadly ones like cocaine and heroin. The abuse of these substance leads to criminal penalty in addition to possible physical social and psychological harm. There are many cases in which criminal or anti-social behavior occurs when the person is under the influence of a drug. Long term personality changes in individuals may occur as well. Substance or drug abuse is prevalent with an estimated one hundred and twenty Million users of hard drugs such as Cocaine, heroin and other synthetic drugs. Young Sierra Leoneans especially pupils and students develop certain habit, for the sake of acceptance in a group. Some of these dangerous habits such as smoking, alcohol drinking and drug taking are resorted to for the sake of helping them to cope with the problems, fears and pressured of everyday life. Some use this as a means of escape from the realities of life; realities which they do not want to face tackle.
There are various kinds of drugs which are usually abused by young people (mainly Students) in Sierra Leone. They include Cigarettes, Alcohol, Marijuana and Cocaine.
Cigarettes for instance are drugs easily available to youths. They are quite addictive and can cause lasting effects on young people. They are consumed by smoking and could therefore be related to Marijuana which is also very widely consumed. Smoking of these drugs provides a source of pleasure and at the same time posed as menace to health. Most adolescents and students in Sierra Leone smoke because it makes them feel like adults by imitating adult activities or even keeping them “awake”. The various activities connected to smoking provide a way to get over nervous tensions. A heavy smoker craves for tobacco and an addictive habit is often stronger than will and knowledge combined. No evil habit has to enslave the students of this nation as that of using tobacco and marijuana. I sometimes wonder about the universal acceptance and indulgence of tobacco when its effects are only harmful.
Alcohol is another substance which when abused destroys the mental health of students and poses a great challenge towards enhancing a productive future for all. Contrary to the general belief that alcohol is stimulant, it is a drug which is habit-forming. It produces a harmful effect on the behavior of students. Due to social or peer pressure and public tolerance, alcoholism is widespread. The wide range of hazards on the brain hinders the effectiveness of
learning for students and pupils seeking education. Alcohol impedes self control, impairs judgment and affects conscious actions. Drunkenness does not only lead to loss of intelligence but can also lead to death, thereby terminating the very existence and possible future of youths, who happens to be one of the most vulnerable groups to alcoholism.
When young people indulged themselves in the intake of alcohol, they act as criminals doing wicked deeds. Many youths are led into sin while under the influence of alcohol. Those who wish to have full control over their behavior should surely abstain from the use of all intoxicating beverages. Even Solomon, the wise king of old condemned alcoholism. There is also a high rate of suicide in alcoholic and other drug abusers. This is very common among adolescents, with one in four suicide in adolescent being related to alcohol abuse. For instance, approximately thirty percent (30%) of suicide cases in the United States of America are related to alcohol abuse.
Our social skills are significantly impaired by alcoholism due to the neurotoxin effects of alcohol on the brain. It has been suggested that social skills training adjunctive to impatient treatment of alcohol dependence is probably efficacious. The initiation of drug and alcohol use from 2010 “Monitoring the future survey”, a nationwide study on rates of substance use in the United States, shows that forty-eight percent (48%) of 12th graders report having used an illicit drug at some point in their lives. In the thirtieth day prior to the survey, 41% of 12th graders had consumed alcohol and 19.2% of 12th graders had smoked tobacco cigarette.
The World Health Organization estimated that around 140 Million people were alcohol dependants and another 400 Million suffered alcohol related problems. Do all think this statistics describe a better future for students today? Students and those in adolescent as a whole occupy a delicate and sensitive position within the political structure for several reasons. Research have proven that drug barons prefer recruiting their traffickers from the age of fifteen (15) to thirty-five (35)years, most of whom are either unskilled, unschooled or students and even the unemployed. So in reiterating the question, what is the fate of the young generation and what is the assurance of a brighter future for them when such menaces plague our society.
Generally, peer pressure, child abuse, emotional stress, weak parental control, imitation, truancy among young students, the easy accessibility and availability of drugs and the ineffectiveness of the laws on drug trafficking are the factors influencing the abuse of drugs among youths especially students.
It is becoming unhidden and undisputable that illicit drug usage is rapidly becoming a part of students’ lives and for a large number of students it starts in secondary schools. All these we must not forget, affect our mental wellbeing which shapes our personalities and future. Young people and adolescence also end up as drug addicts in their search for fun, joy and a diversion from the real challenges of life.
A piece of advice to all Students:
There should first of all be the strong determination and firm resolve to overcome this evil habit. Drug abuse should be discouraged by the older generation. This plague could be tackled by a proper family upbringing, parental care, guidance and love, parent-teacher co-ordination, awareness raising against the use of drugs through the use of mass media and sustained efforts of religious organizations.
Students should not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the excessive demands made on them by older folks and society which is also another factor for resorting to the use of drugs.
They should be watchful against the rampant encroachment of western civilization with its attractions and the breakdown of the hold of traditional ways of life and societies which has made drug abuse a custom for most students.
The choice of friends is of utmost importance as “birds of a feather flock together”. By all means, if success is to crown the efforts in keeping students and pupils away from tobacco, the parents, should set the right example.
In conclusion, the dangers of drug abuse should be reiterated to youths and students involved in it.
If substance abuse and mental health is curtailed, then, education could be achieved to the highest peak probably re-establishing Sierra Leone as the “Athens of West Africa”. This will ensure the brightest and most productive future for students and the young generation.