Name: Marko Prinsloo
From: Abu Dhabi , UAE
Addictions, heartbreak and solution
Addiction can impact not only the individual, but also those around them. Specifically, alcohol addiction, which has caused car accidents, health problems and broken families. Smokable substances (cigarettes, vape and pipe) which in its availability, is dominating youth substance addiction. I have always had to be careful around alcohol. I was brought up in South Africa, in a culture where weekly barbecues and alcohol was consumed until the early mornings was the norm. I was always aware of the dangers of addiction due to the effect it had on my family. My grandmother, who was in her early 70’s had been drinking alcohol for the majority of her life and she died of liver cancer in 2017 and it was a tragic loss for our family. Many people don’t even realize that they have a problem until they start suffering the consequences of it.
In high school, I was surrounded by friends who were influenced by alcohol almost on a daily basis. Even though I spent my middle and high school years in Abu Dhabi where alcohol is prohibited in public. The first time I was exposed to alcohol, smoking and other recreational substances was at the age of 14. I was halfway through eighth grade when my friends started drinking and smoking and at 15 some of them couldn’t sleep without either having a smoke or a drink. One day, a good friend of mine brought in a water bottle that was filled with alcohol and she started drinking at 8am. Throughout the day she progressively became more intoxicated and by the end of the school day, we had to literally drag her out of school. The addictions became worse in the final years of school. I progressively saw my friends ruin their lives and tear their families apart with their addictions. Another friend of mine was addicted to smoking cigarettes and local dokha (tobacco leaves) at 15. He was a chain smoker until he graduated school in grade 12. Him and I were close friends and we were both very competitive soccer players. He was very good and was at the time competing at the top level of soccer in Abu Dhabi, but his smoking addiction incapacited his physical ability to perform at that high level and he was released from his club. Stories like these become more common every day. Every year it feels like the age at which kids are being exposed to these substances becomes lower and lower, which means they are addicted to these harmful substances when their brains are still developing and growing. Not only do these substances harm your health, but when a person is addicted to these substances, they are 37% more likely to have mental illness if they consume alcohol and 53% more likely to have a mental illness if they are drug users. These illnesses could be either anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. At the age of 16 several of my rugby teammates had serious bipolar disorder and they often were the first to react to physical conflicts at school and on the rugby pitch. This was due to their excessive drinking lifestyles.
It can be said, that all of these stories are largely due to the stigma surrounding the fact that boys are supposed to be ‘manly’ and that they cannot be vulnerable about their issues and the fact that girls are looked down upon when they make mistakes. We’ve created a culture of judgement and scrutiny within our society, where people turn to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs as an outlet to deal with the pressure and emotional stress that is placed upon them. Therefore, I believe it is best that education facilities and other outlets should spend time with teenagers before they hit their rebellious years. Schools need to strive to make better teacher student relationships and there should be more qualified mental health workers on school campuses, to allow students the freedom and security to share the reality of their struggles. Influencers and guest speakers should be organised to talk and discuss with teenagers in these prime ages. As a society we need to offer more resources, not just for “don’t do drugs” and “stay away from alcohol”, but giving genuine support and security to those in need. If they have already turned to these destructive methods, instead of scrutinizing, we all need to come together to support those who are in need, by opening up medical, mental and rehab centers that are affordable and that welcome those that struggle with addiction. Many of these problems could be solved at early ages or before they even begin; at school with qualified mental health teachers and more trained psychologists that can build relationships with children from the early ages of their pre and middle school ages. I’ve seen so many people hurt, broken and torn apart because they don’t receive the proper medical care that they should once they are addicted to alcohol, substances and drugs. We need to start teaching younger kids the facts about substance abuse and their effects, not just the health and mental state of the individual, but the much larger impact it has on the communities around the addicts. When we start teaching our kids the importance of living healthier lives, with smarter decisions, we can move into a brighter future.