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One in four illicit-drug users between the ages of twelve and seventeen develops dependency, a rate significantly higher than that of any other age group. In talking to your youngster about tobacco, alcohol and drugs, make the point that no one who begins using drugs ever imagines that he or she will become hooked. It’s still unclear why our bodies react to drugs differently; why one teenager can flirt with alcohol or pot and then break off the engagement cleanly, while another rushes headlong into total addiction.

Heredity appears to play a large role in determining a person’s susceptibility to drugs’ effects. For instance, the rate of alcoholism among sons of alcoholic parents is four to five times higher than among children of non-alcoholics. If there is a history of substance abuse in your family, tell your child this. Perhaps knowing that she might have inherited a gene predisposing her to addiction will serve as a deterrent.

In addition to genetic traits, certain social and environmental factors raise the odds that a boy or girl may be drawn to alcohol and controlled substances. The greater the number of risk factors, the greater an adolescent’s vulnerability.

Do any of the characteristics apply to your child?

  • Untreated psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and personality disorder. For these youngsters, as well as for those with untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other learning problems that interfere with academic and social success, taking illicit drugs may be their way of self-medicating.
  • Temperament: thrill-seeking behavior, inability to delay gratification and so forth.
  • An eating disorder.
  • Associating with known drug users.
  • Lack of parental supervision and setting of consistent limits.
  • Living in a family where substance abuse is accepted.
  • Living in a home scarred by recurrent conflicts, verbal abuse and physical abuse.

Know The Facts

Coming to this discussion well informed will enhance your credibility with your teenager. You’ll also be better able to spot problems in the early stages, when they’re most treatable.  Here is some homework a minimum, parents should know:

  • The different types of drugs and their street names.
  • What each drug and any associated paraphernalia look like.
  • The physical and behavioral signs of drug abuse.
  • How to get a child help if you suspect that he or she has a substance abuse problem.

Help is out there. Know who to call:

Alcoholics Anonymous South Africa: National helpline: 0861 HELPAA (435 722).
Worldwide fellowship for alcoholics supporting those choosing to be sober. Only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. See the AA website for a directory of provincial contact numbers and local “meeting rooms”.

Narcotics Anonymous SA: National 24-hour helpline: 083 900 MY NA (083 900 69 62)
NA is a non-profit organisation for recovering drug addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. Website:

SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

  • Sanca – Johannesburg: 08611 REHAB (73422) or (011) 673-0400 or
  • Sanca – Western Cape: (021) 945 4080/1 or

Sanca provides specialised and affordable prevention and treatment services for alcohol and other drug dependence. A national body established in 1956, it has independently operated societies and counselling centres in all nine provinces.

Dept. of Social Development’s Substance Abuse Line: National toll-free helpline: 0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312

Offers support, guidance and help for people addicted to drugs and alcohol as well as their families. Run in partnership with the SA Depression and Anxiety Group.



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