Teenagers hitting the bottle to cope
Pupils are increasingly turning to alcohol. Research by the SA Depression and Anxiety Group paints a worrying picture of teenage consumption of alcohol and drugs.It found that Grade 11 pupils were 59% more likely than pupils in other grades to have used alcohol. More than half the surveyed boys in that grade admitted to drinking.Almost 14% of boys and 6.8% of girls had consumed alcohol before the age of 13.The operations director of the Depression and Anxiety Group, Cassey Chambers, said a combination of issues contributed to youngsters' abuse of alcohol and other substances."Teens are dealing with more problems and have few coping mechanisms except the quick fix or release that alcohol can provide," she said.Grade 10 pupils were more likely than pupils in other grades to have smoked dagga.Inhalants and over-the-counter medicines were used more than hard drugs such as heroin and tik.Chambers said the environments of young people played a big role in impeding the development of their coping skills and in damaging their self-esteem."We need to start looking at providing early intervention and support for parents and teens . teach coping skills and offer resources so that the need for drugs as a way of coping ceases to exist."But Patric Solomon, the director of child rights' NGO Molo Songololo, argued that drinking was not only a way of trying to cope with life. Teens modelled themselves on what they saw on TV, in their homes and among their peers."They are socialised with alcohol while very young."Society criticised teenagers more than their adult role models, he said.Izabella Gates, MD of NGO Life Talk, said teenagers needed to be empowered to make "life-enriching choices".Schools were unable to become involved in helping teenagers if families were not.