By Yanga Sifuba
The South Africa National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) reports teenagers who start drinking under the age of 15 have a 40 percent chance of becoming an alcoholic.
17-year-old Lonwabo Mcopeni, from one of the high schools in East London, said he and his friends from school put together money just so they can drink on Fridays after school.
“We base money amongst ourselves, which may add up to large sums at times. Sometimes the girls from school join us, but they have to contribute money to buy the booze if they want to drink,” he said.
Teens usually drink in groups and some go as far as drinking in full school uniform. Bonga Mona, now a student in one of the colleges in East London, says he indulged in alcohol while in full school uniform during 2009. “I got expelled from school,” said Mona.
It is believed that people who start drinking at an early age are most likely to carry on drinking in adult life.
Lulama Gaushe, 22, from Mdantsane stopped drinking alcohol late in 2011. He said it affected his health and usually resulted to him having “blackouts”.
“Alcohol alters someone’s state of mind and people find themselves doing things they don’t normally do when sober,” he said.
Xhanti Macozoma, 26, an aspiring entrepreneur from Amalinda, said he used to have friends who were heavy drinkers and drug users. He is now glad that he’s away from that sort of life.
“I don’t drink as often as I used to. I used to spend about R1000 on alcohol with my friends. Well not anymore, now I’m focusing on my life and making a success out of it,” said Macozoma.
It is widely known that taverns in townships do sell alcohol to minors, which also contributes to underage drinking.
Peer pressure is one of the reasons why teenagers drink alcohol, because they want to have that sense of “belonging” to certain groups at school. For other teens it’s experimental.
Sanca offers specialised counselling services to individuals, couples and families.
Cindy Zill, head of prevention and social worker at SANCA, says: “We have a 21 day programme only offered to patients over the age of 18. The patient would have to stay on the premises with counsellors and social workers monitoring them weekly and giving them motivational talks.
“The process isn’t easy because the patient should admit that they have a drinking problem. Also the patient should be willing to accept help and participate in the programme in order to ignite recovery,” concluded Cindy.
To contact Sanca call (043) 722 1210 or visit www.go2rehab.co.za.