SA youth drowning in drugs

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pretoria - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has raised concern about the use of drugs among the youth, saying they pose a bigger threat to the future than the Aids pandemic.

Speaking at the Future Leaders Annual Youth Conference in Durban recently, Mthethwa said the country’s youth are the biggest target of the drug dealers.

The minister revealed that a study conducted in 2009 indicates the use of drugs among teenagers had increased over the last 10 years by more than 600%, with the average starting age of abuse at 12 years and younger. 

The drug dealers are targeting schools with a 2007 report indicating that Gauteng’s youngest drug dealer was an 8-year old boy from Douglasdale.

“Compounding the increase in substance abuse is the sad reality that some segments of society perceive drug-taking to be cool, normal and acceptable. This is a social problem that cuts across all demographic groups.”

According to Mthethwa, South Africa is both a transit and end user country with over 41 drug laboratories closed down by the law enforcement agencies last year alone.

He raised concerns over the links between growing gangsterism and the illicit trade in drugs as well as the links between drugs and violence.

The response Mthethwa says must focus on production, consumption and cross border trafficking.

“Shared responsibility is a key part of the formula for suppressing drugs. The drug problem must be dealt with using an integrated approach that aims to reduce, on the one hand, supply and on the other, demand. 

“In addition, we must also focus on the inter-dependent relationship that exists between drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime.”

Recognising the complexity of the problem, Mthethwa said government has partnered with other agencies to implement the Anti-Substance National Plan of Action.

The plan focuses on enabling policy and legislation; supply reduction; demand reduction; harm reduction; and strengthening the role of civil society in this struggle.

The minister also used his speech to call on the communities to work with the government and police to raise awareness of the scourge of substance abuse.

“A call to action needs to be made by all of us in this rally, to save the present and the future for the sake of our youth. It is within our power both individually and collectively to rise to the occasion.”

He challenged the youth to implement the same spirit as that of the class of 1976 to successfully tackling challenges of combating poverty, unemployment, HIV and Aids, personal development and drug abuse.

“As youth, the focus must be to inspire and empower young South Africans to identify the role they can play in addressing these economic and social challenges.”

Globally, the illegal drug trade is a $300 billion global industry, which is more than some countries GDPs. About 230 million people, or 5% of the world’s adult population, are estimated to have used an illicit drug at least once in 2010.

There are also about 27 million people internationally who use drugs in a manner that exposes them to very severe health problems.

In South Africa, approximately 15% of the population has a drug problem which is costing South Africa R20-billion a year. -

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