ALCOHOL and drug abuse among school children and other teens is becoming a contentious issue in Port Moresby, Lae and the major urban centres.
Two weeks ago in the capital city, a drinking session by male and female students after school ended in the death and alleged rape of a Gerehu Secondary School student.
The late Diane Wanefa Steward was laid to rest following a funeral service yesterday, which was attended by her family members and school friends.
In a similar incident last weekend, NCD police reprimanded six female and eight male students for drinking alcohol and behaving in a disorderly manner in public.
Acting National Capital District Metropolitan Superintendent Perou N’Dranou says many teens are putting their lives in danger and their health at risk by drinking, smoking and behaving in a disorderly manner. He warned parents to monitor their children and peer groups.
Over in Lae, magistrate Jeremiah Singomat told students during a law and order programme organised by police that while the courts would like to be sympathetic with young offenders, the law must be respected.
Singmat warned that students under 18 years old would be prosecuted for alcohol and drug abuse.
Lae Metropolitan Superintendent Iven Lakatani added that police will not hesitate arrest and charge young offenders. This is not the first time the police and other authorities have expressed grave concerns about this issue. It certainly will not be the last.
Parents and guardians must take heed of these warnings and ensure their children do not endanger their lives by joining in drinking binges after school.
Research shows that alcohol and drug abuse during teen and young adult years can lead to many problems for those concerned and their families. Such abuse can lead to skipping school, bad grades, conflict in relationships with friends and peers and unstable family relationships. It can cause poor brain function, concentration, and other areas of brain development.
Many teenagers get in trouble with the law and end up in court, and spend time in juvenile detention.
Teens who begin using alcohol and other drugs earlier are more likely to be heavy users and may become addicted and dependent on these substances. These problems have a negative impact on their personal lives, their future work life, family relationships, friendships, and overall health.
Teens copy what they see the adults in their lives doing, and will use alcohol and drugs to feel more grown up or to rebel against adults. Therefore, it is helpful for parents to give clear messages about the potential dangers and pair those messages with rules and consequences that are firm but fair.
Research shows that there are a number of risk factors that make a teen more likely to have problems with alcohol and drug abuse in the future. These include individual, family, and community risk factors.
Individual risk factors include being male, having an untreated mental health issue, having low self-esteem, poor grades in school, and poor social and coping skills. Family risk factors include history of alcohol and drug abuse, poor modelling from parents, chaos at home, and poor communication between parents and children.
Community risk factors are high incidence of alcohol and drug abuse and availability of drugs in the community.
Research has found that factors that protect teens from alcohol and drug abuse include parents, peers, community and schools. Parents who model positive behaviour, have good communication skills, set limits, and supervise their teens can improve the chances that their children will avoid alcohol and drug abuse. Having friends who do not abuse alcohol and drugs helps protects kids, as does having a zero tolerance policy in the local community.
Schools help by providing after school activities, sports, teachers and coaches who are good role models, and quality education.
Indeed, alcohol and drugs abuse requires the total commitment and concerted efforts of parents, schools and the community to drastically reduce its harmful and even deadly effects on our young generation now and in the future.
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