By:Mpho Shelile

A complex and multifaceted endeavor as special organizations, police and the army join hands to help curb the drug pandemic at American Corner Maseru on the 16th November. It is crucial to approach the issue of drug use among youth through a comprehensive and holistic lens, involving education, prevention programs, mental health support, and community involvement to address the various factors contributing to substance abuse. Early intervention and support can play a crucial role in mitigating the negative impacts on youth.

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A representative from Mokhosi Oa ‘Mangoana (MOM) Mrs. Pontšo Tumisi, stressed that she has been on a journey of trying to prevent drugs spread for 3 years, “In the age of meth and other illegally manufactured synthetics, the danger associated with experimental drugs is greater than ‌ever‌‌,” they have turned children into slaves. “Children who go to great schools delay giving into drug use pressure, tobacco, or any other kind of drug. That is why investing in good education is a good start. It is wise to prepare our children from a tender age for an era when drugs may be offered to them so that they know how to stand their ground and say no!”

She further alluded that drug abuse prevention starts with parents learning how to talk to their children about difficult topics. “It is not easy navigating relationships with kids, especially if they are navigating their own complex situations like addiction. She said that drug addiction does not only affect the user but the family at large.  As a parent she has knocked on every door to seek help for addicts but with no luck, however LMPS and LDF coming on board has shed some light and hope.  “Parents who have children struggling with addiction have a unique set of difficulties. They’re constantly plagued by worry about their safety and wellbeing. They may feel responsible for their child’s path and wonder where they went wrong.”

“No matter the words uttered to describe drug addiction, its effects on family, friends and others are often devastating and heartbreaking to witness. The physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of addiction give the addict a sort of tunnel vision,  they will spare no expense in keeping their substance abuse going–even if it means putting those they love the most on the back burner”, She said.

It is easy to think of various ways drug addiction affects the person using substances. As addiction progresses, its impact gets even worse with time. Addiction can have both short- and long-term health effects, which are:  losing a job, increasing financial troubles, and run-ins with the law. The effects of active addiction stretch out far beyond the person using substances. Immediate family members are also affected when their loved one has a drug or alcohol problem. Whether it’s a child, parent, or spouse, addiction alters the lives of anyone who loves that person. Addiction affects the entire family in many ways.

The specific effects depend on which person in the family unit has a problem. Relationships, finances, safety, and more are all at risk. “We need to develop educational programs to raise awareness about the dangers of drug addiction and its impact on individuals and communities. Engage in outreach activities in schools, which we are already doing, community centers, and other public spaces.”

She concluded by stating that Lesotho needs to strengthen border control measures to curb the flow of illegal drugs into the country. Adding that foreigners are the drug suppliers and that it is about time they felt the pressure. She also advised the LMPS and LDF to increase surveillance, and form collaborations with international law enforcement agencies.

 Law enforcement must deal with drug-related issues daily, the police alone cannot solve the problem of addiction in their communities. Law enforcement leaders must simultaneously recognize the importance of their roles as first responders and also engage their governing bodies, legislators, and community leaders to address the broader aspects of these complex issues. They should also strive to create innovative partnerships with public health providers and rehabilitation experts to help line officers respond more effectively to substance abusers with an increased array of alternative solutions to incarceration

From LMPS Mr. Moerane indicated that their research has revealed that there are lots of drug addicts in Lesotho, but Maseru has the highest rates. “This drug lords have our kids as young as 13 selling drugs for them, and our kids ignorantly sell without proper knowledge of what will happen if they are found with drugs in their possession, that they could face a 20 years sentence in prison. “The drug threat is everywhere and is constant, it requires law enforcement to work closely with partners in education, prevention and treatment. We all must address the supply and demand sides of this problem and do so relentlessly,” he concluded.

LDF Youth Development Program Coordinator Major Bokang Melato stated that LDF’s primary role is to ensure the country’s safety, “drugs seem to be one thing that they are fighting to end but are failing miserably, we have a team of investigators doing research and meth seems to be the most dangerous one so far, majority of its users end up mentally unstable, but we are not losing hope. We have LDF boot camp where we help the youth. The boot camp is a rehabilitation center where we make sure to not only help them but to educate them on the impacts of drugs”, he added that they have not had any relapses they know of, because if they did they would offer free counselling to them. He stated that they are also going to offer rehab services for free to addicts who come from less privileged homes.

Mrs. Lilian Pali Mokhethi a mental health social worker from Mohlomi hospital indicated that their facility is mostly filled with teenagers who have gone mad because of drugs. There is a need to improve the integration of substance use and mental health care for children and youth. “At Mohlomi we receive drug abuse patients when things are bad, and they are at the verge of walking naked. I know that no mother gave birth to an addict, so I can understand the pain they must be going through. We make sure to release our patients when they are better but our cases of relapse are continuous, so we have resorted to going to communities to teach them about drugs.”

“Treatment needs are diverse within this group of young people who use drugs. Girls record higher levels of mental health problems, and a larger burden of psychosocial risk factors than boys, they are likely to require more comprehensive treatment interventions. The link between severe drug problems and mental health problems point to the exploration of treatment”, she concluded by advising parents to hug their children when they first arrive at home that way they will know if their children use drugs or not.