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Hezekiel Boloka and Amanda Swart are two of a team of personnel at Sanca Limpopo Alcohol and Drug Centre in Polokwane.

Addicted kids as young as nine

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In just a year’s time, the number of children in Limpopo aged 9 to 14 years who are dependent on substances has increased by some 159%.
On a yearly basis, the age group of children dependent on drugs and/or alcohol is becoming younger and the number of such instances is increasing alarmingly.
This is according to Sanca Limpopo Alcohol and Drug Centre Director Amanda Swart, who said the centre’s statistics on cases in Limpopo, show the number of children dependent on drugs and/or alcohol between the ages of 9 and 14 years increased by around 159% in the year 2016/2017, compared to the same age group in the year 2014/2015. An increase of roughly 161% for the age group 15 to 19 years was recorded for the same time frame.
Swart further said the prevalent substances being used in Limpopo by children – and adults – are alcohol, marijuana, nyaope and cat (meth cathinone), also known as ‘the poor man’s coke’ (cocaine).
“Unfortunately, the parents are often to blame for their children being drug and/or alcohol dependent. Parents these days want to be their children’s ‘buddies’ instead of being the authority figure. Children end up feeling defenceless in the absence of authority,” Swart explained.
She said the centre is currently planning group sessions with parents to teach them how to take back authority in their families, and focusing on parental leadership, in order to empower them to prevent their children becoming drug and/or alcohol dependent.
“Parents do not realise what a huge role they play in the choices that their children make. Someone must take responsibility for the family dynamics. Confident parenting makes children feel safe but if you are hesitant they will try to find safety elsewhere such as with their peers,” she continued.
Swart reiterated that while they are aware that there has been talk about children who are prescribed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medication selling their medication to their peers to give them an edge when studying for exams, to date the centre has not had any such specific instances reported to them.
She stressed that the problem with drugs and children in Limpopo goes far deeper than kids selling ADHD medication to each other and she further emphasised that the centre is not only there as a service to alcohol and/or substance dependents but also for their families. “Prevention is better than cure.”
For more information or to participate in upcoming group sessions contact 015 295 3700.

Story: KAREN VENTER
>>karen@observer.co.za