SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – By Richinel Brug) - Parents, educators, and concerned citizens have been pleading for help for years, but it appears that their pleas have gone unheard. This scenario has now spiraled out of control, with a large proportion of our children being exposed to drugs and becoming drug addicts from primary school through high school. Drug use by children and teenagers is after school, during school hours, and even before school. These acts are clearly visible in public areas.
To address and fix any problem, one must first determine the root cause. There are a variety of reasons why our children use illegal substances. This includes our decision makers failure to keep the cost-of-living down, parents are now forced to work two, sometimes even 3 jobs just to meet their basic needs. Consequently, parental time is reduced putting the child(ren) more at risk to be subjected to negative elements such as drug use and joining gangs.
This is even a more difficult challenge for single parents. Other reasons include recreation purposes, to feel good, to suppress feelings/thoughts, due to peer pressure, due to stress, lack of proper parenting, students’ immediate circle are users themselves, and even the media plays an influential role. Regardless to whatever reason(s) a significant number of our children have become users and even addicts in some cases. This must be addressed!
There are short-term and long-term effects on the brain and body, especially for children under the age of 21. Due to their brain not being fully developed to cope with the illegal substances, this can lead to various health issues e.g., lung & heart disease, stroke, cancer, infections like HIV, Hepatitis, AIDS. Also, mental illnesses, such as, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, difficulty thinking, learning, and solving problems, difficulty maintaining attention, and violent behavior. Our children and teenagers may also start to commit crime, like, stealing, extortion by their peers, adults and even their own parents to get the funds they need to maintain their addiction, just to mention a few. (https://www.gatewayfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Effects-of-Drug-Abuse_v1-01.png)
Unfortunately, a significant number of our children have already shown numerous of these effects, some parents are holding their heads expressing mixed negative emotions. While some parents see the signs, but are in denial, to these parents I advise you have a serious conversation on the topic with your child(ren) and to get your child(ren) occasionally tested unexpectedly.
Most institutions really do not want to expel children that are drug users and addicts from their institution, because they know that the child(ren) need help, that, unfortunately, they are unable to provide due to lack of resources, funding, and co-operation from the competent authorities (decision makers) and parents. On the other hand, if they keep the child(ren) that are drug users at their institution, they run the risk of those children influencing the others, creating a bigger problem.
These issues cannot continue to go unaddressed, as our future generation and our economy are endangered. It is time the decision makers of this country collaborate with entities such as Turning Point and The Mental Health Foundation develop drug awareness and prevention campaigns, specially tailored rehabilitation programs for children. In addition, also establish, implement, and reinforce stiffer penalty for dealers and users that provide our children with illegal substances. Another approach that will help is access to free variety of Sports and Arts programs for all children ages 5 to 18, that also champions for drug free participants offering incentives in their respective programs.
To really solve this issue, there must be a joint effort from stakeholders and decision makes in the fields of social services, education, justice, as well as businesses, services, and social clubs.
Help save our children.