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Know the symptoms of substance abuse

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

If your child is behaving differently, suddenly performing badly at school or things are going missing from your home, you need to consider the possibility that they may be abusing substances.

Although substance abuse is rife in South Africa, especially amongst the youth, parents and loved ones who take early action can prevent a catastrophe from happening.

According to the Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD), the challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, sometimes volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of substance abuse.

The department warned loved ones to be on the look-out for these signs of substance abuse:

  • Suddenly being secretive about friends, possessions and activities
  • Declining grades
  • Missing money, valuables or prescriptions
  • Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn or depressed
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain, and
  • Unusual smells on the breath, body or clothing.

In cases where a parent finds or suspects that their child is using drugs or any other substance, the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) advises parents to calmly address the issue with the child. Parents or caregivers must maintain an open and honest dialogue with their child and give a clear message that the use of drugs and alcohol is strictly forbidden.

As a means to limit their access to alcohol or drugs, Sanca advises parents to give children the bare minimum in pocket money.

The Western Cape DSD said parents seeking to address substance abuse must not make excuses or try to hide the problem. It’s natural to want to help a loved one in need but protecting them from the negative consequences of their choices may keep them from getting the help they need, cautions the department.

For more information on overcoming drug addiction, call Sanca on 011 892 3829 or logon to www.sancanational.info