Lucy Sebli

The youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity.
Benjamin Disraeli, British politician

Recently, drug abuse among youth has once again made news headlines — even politicians are talking about it.

Earlier this year, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin issued a statement saying that a total of 85,575 youths was among the 116,206 drug addicts detected by the National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK) over a five-year period, starting from 2014.

He added that if the issue was not tackled, it might result in a loss of young workforce. This problem has become alarmingly concerning as Sarawak has become the state with the most student drug addicts (Bernama, 2019).

Earlier this year, AADK director-general Datuk Seri Zulkifli Abdullah had stated that an inspection of urine screenings from 191 schools revealed that 301 students were found positive for drugs.

Such high-risk areas include Gita, Kuching, Sri Aman, Samarahan, Bintulu and Miri. Drug addiction among the youth, however, is not only confined to urban settings.

According to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, this problem has now made its way into rural communities.

This is a cause for concern, as if not dealt with properly, will have detrimental effects on the state as well as our youths.

The problem with youth drug abuse in our country is largely attributed to peer pressure, as opposed to other parts of the world where drug abuse is usually triggered or attributed to parental behaviour, familial relationships as well as home atmosphere.

Another factor that contributes to this issue is the poor coping mechanisms by youths, whereby youths turn to drugs in order to relieve stress.

With the mounting stress caused by academic demands, part-time jobs, sports and so forth, some students are not able to deal with the stress that comes with this, and in turn, decide to use drugs as a form of escapism.

Some students even go as far as using stimulant drugs such as Adderall, which causes the user to stay up for long periods at a time.

Students that use this drug typically use it to help them complete assignments, or study throughout the night without feeling sleepy or tired.

Some youths also turn to drugs due to curiosity. Youths that are part of a group that is involved in drug abuse have a higher tendency to succumb to their curiosity, and eventually become addicts.

For some, it is not necessarily due to hanging with the wrong crowd — youths can also fall prey to drug addiction by emulating what they see on mass media.

An example of this is marijuana use, whereby this particular substance is legal in Canada, as well as some states in the United States, and at times, the act of using this particular drug, is displayed in movies or dramas.

There is a possibility that some of our youths might see these scenes and feel curious to try out these drugs.

With so many factors leading to youth drug abuse, what can and should be done by the responsible authorities?

For one, education centres should carry out more anti-drug campaigns in school, as a means to educate youths regarding the negative effects of drug abuse, as well as raise awareness regarding the existing drug problem among youths.

Another way is by helping the affected youths by giving them counselling or referring them to rehab centres in order to help them recover from addiction, once and for all.

Usually, youths are afraid to seek help due to the fear of prosecution, jail time as well judgement by society.

Most affected youths are also unable to quit cold turkey, and in turn, instead of being rid of the habit, end up relapsing.

This will cause the issue to worsen, whereby the youths affected will continue to suffer from addiction, and this problem will snowball into even bigger problems such as the affected youths dying due to overdose, or an increase in drug-related crimes.

By referring the affected youths to skilled medical professionals that are able to help them recover from addiction, more serious issues and problems may be avoided.

Besides that, this will enable the affected youths to get their life back on track, and return to becoming a functioning member of society.

The steadily rising number of youth drug addicts in Sarawak is certainly a very worrisome issue, and must be dealt with accordingly in order to properly eradicate the issue.

Our youths are an incredibly valuable asset to our state as well as country, and thus we must team up and pitch in to do everything that we can to help them beat this unseen enemy.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.