Article by Doyle Chibi and Chiedza Bayela Mashoko

As a parent or guardian when you read the above statement the probable reaction is that you are mortified at such a claim, but the statement no less carries essential truth as you’ll find out that can tremendously help in the fight against drug and substance abuse (DSA) amongst the youths in our nation. When it comes to children and youth Parents/Guardians hold the greatest influential power in determining the course of their lives. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) the greatest reason why kids will not take drugs is to not want to disappoint their parents. Even the great book in Proverbs states that train a child in the way he/she should go and when they are old they will not depart from that path neither will they disappoint you, the honours is really on you as a parent/guardian. There has been a worrisome trend of late in our nation of minors and youths abusing different types of drugs from hard-core such as marijuana and cocaine to high alcohol content liquors such as ZED and blue diamond to  pharmaceutical drugs such as Broncleer and to the socially accepted drugs such s alcohol and cigarettes to mention but a few. Between January and December 2015 5445 people were arrested on various drug-related charges. In all 5273 people were charged for varying offenses which included importing, selling, manufacturing, possession and unlawful possession of dangerous drugs. Harare alone records over 100 drug cases monthly. It is estimated that over 4700 young people under the age of 21 die annually in Zimbabwe from injuries involving underage drinking. (Above the Influence, HIT Boost Fellowship 2015). The Ministry of Health and Child Care notes that 60% of all admissions to Psych wards is as a result of drug abuse induced psychosis. No parent should have to deal with the painful ordeal of having a child succumb to DSA.

There are a lot of reasons why children and youths end up taking drugs but today we want to focus on the role of parents or guardians in promoting or preventing DSA. The environment a young person grows up in can inadvertently lead to DSA. If either of the Parent/Guardian drinks alcohol or smokes research has shown that there is a high probability that the child will later pick up that habit because it’s acceptable by their foremost role model. If the parent/guardian is often in the habit of sending the child to buy alcoholic beverages or drugs such as cigarettes or any tobacco products that is in a way conditioning or training the child to even take those substance or drugs later on in their life and some even sooner than even socially accepted in a community. Socially accepted substances such as alcohol and cigarettes are often the forerunners to DSA. Closely linked to this is homes that have some sort of mini-bars with an assortment of various liquors. As children grow they tend to experiment and try out different things and having a mini-bar at home often gives a child easy access to alcoholic beverages if they ever decide to try their hand at alcohol. Parents should also watch out if they also have medicine cabinets at home as drug and substance can also start unintentionally through abusing prescription medicine. This is now the case with Broncleer which no longer serves as medicinal drug but is rather being rampantly abused by many youth in our nation who take it to get high. It is important as such for parents to ensure that even medicinal drugs are not easily accessible to children as these can also be easily abused.

It is also the role of the parent or guardian to guide a child concerning what’s right or wrong particularly in the formative years of their lives. The fact that some parents don’t talk to their children about drug and substance abuse just as some don’t talk to their children about sex and reproductive health issues leaves many young people with many grey areas and vulnerable and open to abuse. Children need guidance and if they can’t find it from their guardians then be assured they will get it from their peers. There are a lot of myths about drugs and substance that pressure young people into DSA such as ‘drugs make you cool’ or ‘you can’t have fun without taking drugs’ as a result parents should talk to their kids about drugs and substance so they drown out all these other voices that encourage them to take drugs.

It is also the role of Parents to guide their children in selecting good friends. In truths parents should know the friends of their children well including the family of that child because you are also allowing the values they have taught their child to influence yours. If parents also take this crucial step they will find their children will less likely encourage each other to do foolish things. Parenting is a round the clock job which requires you to assess the friends, movies, music, books and other influences your child is allowing into their lives and to help them make necessary adjustments where need be. Just what is your child listening to or watching? It is no secret that mainstream media in many ways is promoting drug and substance abuse whether it’s the movies, music or social platforms that children use. NIDA acknowledges that most people are usually introduced to drugs and substances by friends or family members. Iron sharpens iron so it’s important as a parent to assess the friends your child has and whether those are the influences you would want for your child.

A new problematic phenomenon is also emerging where you find that some of the individuals who are supplying or selling some of the drugs such as the notorious Broncleer syrup and high alcohol content liquors such as ZED and Blue diamond are mothers-yes mothers, and for them its ok because it’s not their child. It is indeed worrying just as to what these elderly are teaching the youngsters through selling them drugs and where is the motherly affection? This trend has been perpetuating DSA in many of the high density communities in our nation. A return to our cultural values in this instance would be a positive where ‘a child was everyone’s child’ and no parent would tolerate any child before them engaging in any ill or illicit behaviour such as rudeness or drunkenness among other ills. Rather however in our day and age it is more likely that a parent who admonishes the child of another will suffer a backlash from the biological parent for his/her efforts. Unfortunately this only serves to fuel more notorious behaviour and social ills such as DSA amongst the young people because they know that they have the backing of their parents even if in the wrong.

As a parent or guardian you as such have a huge role to play not only in the life of your child but also in the fight against drug and substance. Your actions can help save a life and at the same time protect you from unimaginable pain and heartache. Say no to drug and substance abuse.

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