PROTRACTED and incessant abuse of alcohol and drugs by our youths in Zambia is well known and can safely be associated with more cumulative and severe health problems.
These health problems will likely become even more evident as early-onset, chronic substance abusers continue to age and take to serious criminal activities.
Abuse of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and other drugs have cause to make parents worry because most importantly they have a big impact on their health and general well-being.
Admittedly young people use drugs for similar reasons that adults do – to socialise with friends, peer pressure or the need to feel part of a group, relaxation or fun, boredom, curiosity, experimentation or wanting to take risks to escape from psychological or physiological pain.
However our youths seem to be uninformed of longer-term effects of drug abuse which can include heart or lung diseases, cancer, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and many others.
Therefore the worries by a Kasama resident over rising illicit activities among the youths deserve listening ears because they are unpretentious and pose major threats to the future of our youths.
Mr Joseph Chibuye says it is depressing to see young people waste time on vices that have a negative impact on their lives.
He is right and it is not only in Kasama where youths have taken to social ills in a big way, claiming that they are jaded and there is no employment for them.
Consequently patronizing bars and night clubs has become the order of the day for the majority of Zambian youths, who take to drinking alcohol and smoking dagga without thinking of tomorrow.
We also appreciate that looking for new experiences is normal for our youths and sometimes it involves thrill-seeking or even risky behaviour.
But whatever it takes, youths must realize that apart from being the future leaders, there are many things that they can turn to and live positive and evocative lives.
We share the apprehensions of Mr Chibuye because indeed it is sad to see a child dropping out of school despite efforts to sensitize them on the significance of education.
His entreaty to government and other stakeholders to put recreation centres such as sports clubs in communities to enable youths engage in productive activities also deserves some consecration.
But more essentially, like the old adage says ‘charity begins at home’, parents should take it upon themselves to nurture their children so that they can grow into responsible adults.
Parents should adopt a close and trusting relationship with their children from an early age, and support and encourage constructive behaviour.
There is need to embolden model appropriate behaviour, such as discouraging smoking dagga or using any illicit drugs and establishing agreements and guidelines about what is acceptable behaviour around alcohol and drugs.
We also feel that children should also be fortified to practise responsibility and develop good decision-making skills from an early age.
Our youths should also be made aware that drugs can change how their brains work and interfere with their aptitude to make choices, leading to strong hungers and habitual drug use.
It is estimated that today, more than 7 million youths the world over including Zambia suffer from an illicit drug malady, and one in four deaths results from illicit drug use.
In fact, more deaths, illnesses and disabilities are associated with drug abuse than any other avoidable health condition.
This is because people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction have a higher risk of unintentional injuries, accidents and domestic violence incidents.
Parents, government and other concerned stakeholders like Mr Chibuye has cried, should put their hands together and fight illicit activities among our youths with desirable results.