Parents and all stakeholders have been urged to come up with possible solutions and ways of stemming the rising tide of substance abuse in Botswana.
Speaking during the Parents’ Dialogue on Drug Use she hosted in Francistown, the First Lady Neo Masisi lamented that drugs were easily accessible even to school-going children. She said challenges such as peer pressure, lack of parental support and unstable families led young people to alcohol and drug use. In most cases, the first lady said, the youth started abusing drugs after being enticed into experimenting by dealers who advertise the substances as good and rewarding.
Ms Masisi advised parents to be observant in order to spot character and behavioral changes in their children. She said they should also be attentive to what their children were saying to establish if they were speaking under the influence of drugs. “Show that you care, greet your child, express your love to them, periodically check on them and spend time with them,” she said.
Mater Spei College Guidance and Counselling teacher, Ms Kene Mothabane said drug abuse was prevalent in schools which she said marred the learning environment. She said school authorities usually identified those on drugs by things such as persistent late coming or leaving class early. “Students who abuse drugs have zero self-care, odour, have suicidal tendencies, steal goods to sell at cheaper prices to buy drugs,” she said.
Drug Enforcement Agency coordinator, Ms Pearl Ramokoka said in 2019 police recorded 1 660 cases of possession of drugs out of which 1 442 involved the youth. She said the number of young people nabbed in possession of drugs increased to 1 782 out of a total number of 2 060 people peddling drugs. "In 2021, 1 819 people of which 1 603 were youth were caught in possession of the same," she said. Ms Ramokoka said drug misuse remained a problem as 83 per cent of cases reported were of youth aged between 10 and 39 thus including primary school pupils.She said a study conducted in 2015 revealed that the use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes was rampant.
A specialist psychiatrist with Sbrana Psychiatric Hospital in Lobatse, Dr Botho Pheto said in 2021, 231 patients were registered with the number shooting to 731 the following year. Speaking about the cycle of addiction, she said it started with happiness which would be short-lived as one became a periodic user before hitting the addiction stage. Withdrawal symptoms are both emotional and physical including anxiousness, anger and becoming defensive. End