Your role in prevention of substance abuse among young people
Most young people lack awareness of the negative consequences of substance use. Raising their awareness of the various ill effects of substances could help in the prevention of substance abuse.
Some young people may persist in substance use even if they are aware of the negative consequences. Helping them to think critically of the perceived effects of substances will help. Young people's perceptions and expectations of substances includes pleasure, courage, relaxation and increase in sexual ability.
Do substances fulfill these expectations?
Most of the substances discussed in this study session have an adverse effect on sexual ability and also decrease fertility. Pleasure and relaxation does not last long and once the effect has worn off the user is left feeling worse than they did before. So mostly young people cannot get what they expect from substance use.
Involving young people themselves in the fight against substance use is important. The community should also be mobilised for successful prevention. It is good to use young persons to educate their peers on substance use.
Not all young people are equally at risk of reproductive health problems. For example, young girls in rural areas are particularly at risk of gender-based violence.
Who do you think are most likely to abuse alcohol:
- young boys or young girls?
- young people in school or young people out of school?
- those in rural areas or those in urban areas?
- young people who have been trafficked or those who are living with their families?
Young boys who are out of school and living without their families in urban areas are the most likely to abuse alcohol (and other substances).
These young men may be alone in urban areas because they have migrated in the hope of finding employment or they may have been trafficked. Trafficking is a condition where young people are taken from their homes by people who intend to sell them to others. Sometimes the children are deceived and go willingly, other times they are taken by force. The young people suffer from exploitive labour, sexual exploitation, abuse and prostitution. Because they lose hope in this situation, most of them (girls as well as boys) engage in substance abuse.
Migration brings both new possibilities and new risks to young people. Many young people from rural areas migrate to urban areas in search of better employment opportunities. Some of them succeed in getting jobs. However, some end up in the streets because they do not get the jobs they were hoping for and they have no one in the towns to support them. For both groups (those who get jobs and those who live in the streets), there are several risks that could affect their reproductive health. The fact that they are away from their home and families means they lack the traditional family influence and support when exposed to substance use.
You as a health professional have many roles in reducing the risks of the most vulnerable groups in your community. In addition to raising awareness and supporting those who wish to quit their habit you may need to find opportunities to reach and educate young people who have dropped out of school. If they are thinking of migrating to the town you can provide counselling services on how to avoid substance use and also on protecting themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. They should also learn of the dangers of HIV and how it can rapidly develop into AIDS with fatal consequences. Encourage them to be aware that psychoactive substances will impair their judgment and place them at multiple risk of impairing their health.