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Impacts of Drug and Substance Abuse of Youths

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 4484 words Published: 2nd Aug 2018

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Drug and substance abuse continues to be a major problem worldwide, and in particular, Malawi. It is estimated that there are over 12 million abusers in United Stated of America and 500,000 cocaine users in South Africa (Fabiano & Maganga,2002, pp124-127). It is a common knowledge that most of the drug and substance abusers are youth and young adults, i.e. the most productive age groups. Most teenagers begin to experiment with substances at an early age which may lead to drug and substance dependence or addiction. This may occur through the progression from experimentation with drugs/ substances to their occasional use and they lead them to the development of tolerance and physical dependence (Malunda & Mpinganjira, 2009, p.147). The most common drug in Malawi is cannabis, also called hemp or chamba and the smoking of hemp is increasing rapidly, particularly among young people. Almost every school has some boys and girls who smoke chamba indicating that the drug is very easy to obtain (Fabiano & Maganga, 2002, pp.124-125).

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Risk factors that predispose people to drug/substance abuse are lack of mental or emotional resources against stress, a low tolerance for frustration, and the need for immediate relief of tension or distress (Malunda & Mpinganjira, 2009, p. 147). According to Arterburn & Burns (1989, pp42-46), biological predisposition, peer pressure, parental attitudes and parenting style are also some of the factors which lead adolescents to indulge in such malpractices. The EAM (1998, p.27), says lack of recreational facilities for the youth makes them to find other forms of recreation such as drugs and drinks.

Drug and substance abuse among the youth is associated with a broad range of high risk behaviors. This type of behavior can have profound health, economic and social consequences such deviant behaviors, unprotected sexual intercourse, interpersonal violence, destruction of property and perform poorly in the studies (Malunda & Mpinganjira, 2009, p.147). According to Kabwila (2000, p.19), “Many cases of indiscipline in schools, homes, sports and entertainment places are as a result of abusing drugs, alcohol, and other substances”. Peschke (1993, p.249) said; “Death caused by smoking far exceed the death rate from Aids and traffic accidents.”

The excessive drinking of alcohol is not illegal but it can have serious effects on both the individual and society. Alcoholism is the/ number one socio- medical problem. Alcohol makes a person irresponsible and much more likely to engage in unprotected sex, therefore, a factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS. It can also lead to illness, particularly diseases of the liver (Fabiano&Maganga, 2002, p.125). Therefore if deaths caused by smoking exceed the death rate from Aids and traffic accidents it is important to analyze the causes and effects of drug and substance abuse among the youths so as to draw out measures of how to help them.

According to Malunda & Mpinganjira (2009, p.148), drug and substance abuse is worsened by complex socio-economic challenges such as unemployment, poverty and crime in general. Most of the youth that are involved in drug and substance abuse are led into a life of crime. Police records reveal that 90% of the criminals arrested in this country are between the ages of 17 and 30 years of age (Dzonzi, EAM, 1998, p.88). Therefore it is of great importance to examine possible factors related to the abuse of drugs and substances among the youths so as to draw out measures of how to help them.

Background information

Mkanda Zone is one of the areas affected by drug and substance abuse. It is a Trading center, North of Mchinji District which borders with Zambia. A lot of businesses are being carried out in this area; shops, dealers, and local businesses. Many adolescents especially school going age in this area are engaged in drug, substance as well as alcoholism.

Drug and substance abuse is linked to other kinds of irresponsible behavior such as unprotected sex or violence. Such risky behaviors may lead to economic, social, and health problems as individuals as well as nation. For example, some youth participate in deviant peer groups, unprotected sexual intercourse, interpersonal violence, destruction of property and others. Secondary schools are facing a lot of problems because of students who are involved in substance abuse, as a result there are many indiscipline cases happening at school. Some of the students who abuse drugs and substances will not perform well in their studies or they will just drop out of school leading to high number of illiterate people.

Adolescents use drugs and substances for various reasons such as peer group pressure, family problems, developmental stage, stress and relief, availability and others (Mueller, 1999, p.317). For a country to develop it needs its young people to become educated, to work hard and become active and responsible citizens. No matter what, the issue of drug and substance abuse remain a major problem among the children and teenagers. Parents and educators should be aware of the extent of drug and substance abuse and its effects. It is therefore important to determine the reasons and nature of substances abuse in youth in Mkanda area in order to be able to suggest measures which could be applied to prevent and control the substance abuse problem.

Statement of the problem

The youth today are more rebellious, more troubled emotionally, more confused sexually, less idealistic, more critical of values and standards of adult culture and more disengaged from them (Dzonzi, EAM, 1998, P.86). One of the major critical decisions that Malawian youth comes face to face with is on the use of drugs and alcohol. According to Kabwila (2000,p.19), “Many cases of indiscipline in schools, homes, sports, and entertainment places are as a result of abusing drugs, alcohol and other substances.” It has been said that almost every school has some boys and girls who smoke chamba (Fabiano & Maganga, 2002, p.124).

Most of the youth that are involved in drug and substance abuse are led to a life of crime. Police records reveal that 90% of the criminal arrested in this country are between the age of 17 and 30 years of age. These crimes are committed daily in Malawi by young people most of them as a result of direct consequence o involvement in drug and alcohol abuse (Dzonzi, EAM, 1998, p.88).

When it comes to the subject of drugs and substance abuse, parents, teachers, pastors, police officers, politicians feel out of their depths, understandably so because there is a lot of confusion and inaccurate information around, this is made worse by some highly charged and emotive news stories on the subject (EAM, 1998, p.86). In light of the above, the main research question of the study; “Why do most of the youth use substance?” From the major research question, the following are some of sub questions: Which substances are used by most of the youth? What are the effects of drug and alcohol abuse on education? Which strategies can be developed to prevent substance abuse among youth?

Purpose of the study

The major aim of this research was to carry out an investigation why most of the youth nowadays are engaged in drug and substance abuse and even alcoholism in selected secondary schools in Mkanda area. Even though such lessons are taught from their earliest ages (primary school), the syndrome seems to be on an increase. The following were the specific objectives of the study:

  • Investigate reasons why most of the youth in Mkanda area are involved in drug and alcohol abuse.
  • An explanation of the mostly abused drug among the youth in secondary schools in Mkanda area.
  • Identify the effects of being involved in drug and alcohol abuse on their education.
  • Identify the strategies to prevent drug and substance abuse among the youth

Significance of study

Today, drug and substance abuse continues to grow at rising rates among children and the youths. Young people today are exposed to drugs earlier than before. The study on this topic will be of great importance to the nation of Malawi. Firstly, the findings of this study will be used to educate the youths and their parents on drug and substance abuse in Mkanda area and other areas in Malawi. Not only will the findings of this research educate the youths and their parents but also will help educators and other professionals involved in youth ministries to understand the prevalence of youth drug and substance use and abuse in order to develop effective evidence-based strategies and policies which will be used to control the problem of drug and substance abuse. Surely, creating a drug free society reduces consequences that may arise and produce responsible citizens.


Drug and substance abuse is influenced by biological and psychological factors. The researcher in this research paper has the following hypotheses:

  • Locally availability of such substances at lowest prices.
  • Lack of other entertainments.
  • Lack of role model.


This study will be conducted in few schools due to lack of time. Responded might not be willing to complete the questionnaires in which will make the researcher some delays to compile the results. Some respondents will not be free to express the truth from the matter fearing that they are going to be arrested since it is a sensitive issue. Money for travelling to gather information is also an issue to be considered. Time is also limited to carry out this research effectively. Language (English) will also be a problem to those with low levels of education.


The researcher will not disclose names of those who indulge themselves in the business of selling these illegal drugs and those who are involved in the smoking Indian hemp. The researcher will also not give some money to those who will be involved in answering questionnaires.

Definitions of terms and Acronyms

Adolescent: The developmental transition between childhood and adulthood.

Drug: A substance which has a physical effect on human beings.

EAM: Evangelical Association of Malawi

HHHIV/AIDS: Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome

Substance: Any kind of matter .

Substance Abuse: Refers to the use of substances for purposes other than what they are intended for or in excess.

Youth: Any person aged in the range of 15-24 years old.


This chapter reviews the related scientific literature. The chapter is divided into five sections. The first section presents an overview of types of drugs and substances in general. The second section deals with the commonly abused drugs in Malawi. The third section contains some of misconceptions associated drug and substance abuse mostly among the youths. The fourth section is concerned the reasons why most people indulge themselves in drug and substance abuse. The next section deals with the effects of drug and substance abuse on an individual.

Types of drugs and substances

Drugs come in various forms and can be taken in numerous ways. Some are legal and others are not (access. Ewu.edu/…education/substance-use-and-abuse/drug-facts.xml).

Stimulants. Stimulants are drugs which speed up the body’s nervous system and create a feeling of energy. They are also called “uppers” because of their ability to make you feel at awake. Stimulants have the opposite effects of depressants. Constant use of stimulants can have very negative effects on the user such as compulsive drugs seeking behavior, anxiety, confusion and insomnia. Examples of such drugs are cocaine, methamphetamines/ amphetamines, Ritalin, caffeine and nicotine (Mueller, 1999, p.372).

Depressants. These are drugs which sedate and slow down the activity of the central nervous system. “Teens who want to relax or reduce their level of anxiety will often turn to depressants. Many teens will use stronger and more toxic doses in order to enter into the state of euphoria and excitement before the sedating power of the drug takes effect.” (Mueller, 1999, p.316). Mueller says these depressants are highly addictive, and long-term users develop physical and psychological dependence on these drugs.

Commonly Abused Drugs in Malawi

According to Kabwila, (2000, pp.19-20), the term ‘drug’ refer to a medicated substance taken orally or through injection in order to relieve pain or suffering. Drug and substance abuse refers to the use of drugs and substances for purposes other than what they are intended for or in excess. Continuous use of these drugs leads to addiction. Addiction is defined as a state of periodic or chronic intoxication produced by the repeated consumption of a drug and involves tolerance, psychological dependence, usually physical dependence, and an overwhelming compulsion to continue using the drug which detrimentally affects both the individual and society (Wilkerson, 1971, p.87).

In Malawi, the mostly abused drugs are cannabis, mandrax, cocaine, valium, petrol, alcohol and tobacco (MIE, 2011, p.88). Cannabis is locally known as chamba, and tobacco (cigarettes). Alcohol can be traditional beverages such as chibuku and kachasu, and imported alcoholic drinks like beer (Bisika, 2004, p.29). According to Bisika, Malawi has been used as a transit route for other drugs like mandrax, heroin and cocaine (p.29). The main primary drug of abuse among students is cannabis (79.3%) followed by alcohol (19.3%). The predominant secondary drug of abuse is alcohol (30.4%) and cannabis (20%). The commonest method of use for the primary drug of abuse is smoking (77%) followed by drinking (23%) (Bisika et al, 2004, pp53-54).

Cannabis. The cannabis plant or hemp is the source of marijuana (chamba), and THC. The commonly used form of cannabis is the dried leaves, buds, and stems of the plant (Mueller, 1999, p.315). Teenagers refer to marijuana as Mary Jane, pot, grass, or weed. Cannabis leaves are prepared and used in the following ways:

  • Prepared like tea and swallowed.
  • Baked into cakes or cookies and eaten.
  • Snuffed like tobacco and inhaled.
  • Smoked like cigarettes-inhaled.
  • Smoked in pipes.
  • Cooked as relish.

In Malawi, cannabis is grown widely throughout the country and the production is about 399.3 hectares according to the Cannabis Survey which was commissioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2003 (Bisika, 2004,p.31). Bisika et al. found that the main commercial growing areas of cannabis are Nkhatabay, Mzimba, Kasungu, Nkhotakota, and Ntchisi. Other districts like Dedza, Ntcheu, Chitipa, and Zomba grow in small scale.

Bisika came up with hospital records of cannabis related admission patients from 1995 to 2003. Records shows that in 1995, there were 205 patients at Zomba Mental Hospital (the only government-institution that caters for mentally ill patients), but in 2003, the number raised up to 269. According to a psychiatric nurse at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, findings shows that the most common abused drug in Malawi seems to be cannabis (p.30).

Bisika further found that police records shows that there are many cases of cannabis trafficting.

Narcotics. These are drugs which depress the central nervous system and at the same time relieve pain such as pain killers like panado.

Alcohol. In Malawi, alcohol is consumed by the general public and is not as stigmatized as cannabis. According to Arterburn& Burns (1989, p.64-67), alcohol is a food because it has calories, is a drug because it alters moods, and is a poison because in large quantities it’s toxic. The alcoholic is any person who consumes so much alcohol that he or she becomes addicted to the chemical.

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Braathen (2008, pp.30-31), listed several types of alcohol. Carlsberg is referred to any bottled beer manufactured by Carlsberg Breweries in Malawi such as green, brown, stout and special. Chibuku is another alcoholic product from Chibuku products Malawi Limited made from maize porridge which is much cheaper than Carlsberg beer. Kachasu is another type of alcoholic beverage, made from maize bran mixed with sugar and water and is left for some days to ferment and then is brewed. Kachasu is a strong spirit brewed by local women.

Misconceptions Associated with Drug and Substance Abuse

Some people indulge in such practice because of the misled information they get from friends which is not true (Kabwila, 2000, p.53). The following are some of misconceptions people have in their mind:

  • Drug and substances give them energy to do work
  • Assist them to ease their tension and stress
  • Relieve their frustrations
  • Make them feel high or enjoy themselves
  • Give them pleasure and leisure
  • Make them more intelligent
  • Give then to do courage to do work
  • Make them to forget their problems.

In addition to the above misconceptions, there are also some traditional beliefs in Malawi that encourage the use of cannabis (chamba). Bisika et al. quoted the SENDU report for 2002 reported that some mothers use cannabis to treat measles (2004, p.32). Furthermore cannabis will give them confidence in their relationship with the opposites sex while some think that cannabis can improve their sexual potency.

Why Teenagers Abuse Drug and Substances

Alcohol, tobacco illicit drugs such as marijuana (chamba) and steroids are some of the most abused drugs and substances (Malunda and Mpinganjira, 2009, p.15). Peschke (1993) came up with some of the causes for one to be indulged in drug and substance abuse like that some seeks the pleasure (p.253). Life is boring so many teenagers find drugs and substances, alcohol to be an exciting form of recreation that is cheap, easy, and fun to do with a group of friend.” (Mueller, 1999, p.317).

Curiosity and experimentation. Many children will satisfy their curiosity about unknown world of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs by trying them to find out just what smoking, drinking and doing drugs are like (Mueller, 1999, p.316). Teens in their developmental stages like to discover what is good for them. “Some young people are always curious about something that is mysterious, adventurous, dangerous, and illegal” (Wilkerson, 1971, p.90). Although curiosity is given an excuse for having started a habit, it is often later found out that some character defect perpetuated the drug taking.

Peer pressure. The strongest motivator for a young person is the desire for acceptance by peers (Arterburn&Burns, 1989, p.43). Young people indulge in such malpractice because of peer pressure. “With the desire to fit in and be accepted and loved, children and teens who feel insecure and unloved at home give in the pressure.” (Mueller, 1999, p.317). These are also called the social addict or the social give-ins; young people who take drugs because it is the sociable thing to do- everyone is doing it. (Wilkerson, 1971, p.91). Youth think that taking drugs is a prerequisite for belonging to some groups. “Most teenagers often begin using and abusing drugs and substances as a result of peer pressure. Lack of adequate family support, failure of parental supervision and excess unsupervised free time also contribute to increased drug/substance use and abuse among teenagers.”(Malunda and Mpinganjira, 2009, p.17).

Availability. Children and teens find drugs and alcohol easy to get. “Even though it’s illegal to buy cigarettes until the age of eighteen, more students are reported buying cigarettes without asked for proof of age.” But the most unbelievable source of alcohol for many teenagers in their parents. ( Mueller, 1999,p.317).

Some of the reasons why teenagers are involved drug and substance abuse advertising. “Advertisements are especially effective as smoking and drinking recruiters. Tobacco industries and Breweries industries promote their products.”(Mueller, 1999, p.318). Teens are fair game for advertising messages that suggest that drinking and smoking lead to maturity, sophistication, beauty, fun and acceptance.

Biological Predisposition. Genetic predisposition plays a big role in siblings to chemical dependency. Children from such families whereby both parents are alcoholics, the risks is even higher. Reports from drug and alcohol center shows that usually 50% of the patients come from families where a parent is an alcoholic (Arterburn&Burns, 1989, p.43). “It is increasingly clear that alcoholism, or the potential for addiction, is passed father to son and from mother to daughter not because of bad home environments, but because of family inheritance pattern.” (p.44).

Life Crisis. Family problems are another factor for drug and substance abuse for teens. “Children who come from homes where there is divorce, separation, an absent parent, discord, marital conflict, unreasonable pressure/expectations, poor communication, abuse or alcoholism are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Escapers. “These are young people seeking to escape from boredom, responsibility, frustration and anxiety.”(Wilkerson, 1971, p.91). The life a normal teenager is filled with all kinds of stresses so drug and alcohol often becomes coping mechanisms for teens that have no other way to grow constructively through adolescence. ( Mueller,1999,p.318). Mueller also says that today’s pop-culture icons and role models send pro-substance abuse messages through their lyrics, videos and lifestyle, movies, TV, and even fashions.

Some teens want to look grown-up.

When teens realize they aren’t children anymore, they don’t want to look like children, so they will make an extra effort to look older than they really are. (Mueller, 1999, p.318). Mueller also says that today’s pop-culture icons and role models send pro-substance abuse messages through their lyrics, videos and lifestyle, movies, TV, and even fashions.

Effects of drug and substance on individual

Drug and substance abuse have carries many risks on individual, family as well as the nation at large. Below are some of the abused drugs and substances along with their effects.

Alcohol. Medical evidence shows that chronic alcohol abuse leads to severe brain damage which also leads to insanity. Alcohol also causes liver disease called ‘Cirrhosis’- hardening of the liver which prevents the free flow of blood causing the liver not to function properly because of many toxins that remain in the blood leading to severe brain damage (Dzonzi, 2004, p.86).

Fabiano and Maganga ( 2002, p.125) says ” Alcohol makes a person irresponsible and much more likely to engage in unprotected sex, therefore high risks of spreading sexually transmitted diseases (STI’s) such as HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, alcohol robs peoples’ money instead of buying basic needs such as food, clothes and good housing; they spend the money on alcohol.

The World Book Encyclopedia (1994, p.362), says alcohol can damage the liver, brain and heart, some users lose interest in school or work or have difficulty meeting the responsibilities of a job or family. Fabiano and Maganga(2002,p.124), says alcohol affects a person’s ability to concentrate and heavy drinking.

Cannabis (marijuana,hashish and THC). The cannabis plant or hemp is the source of marijuana, hashish and THC (tetrahydrocannabinal). According to Mueller (1999, p.315), short-term effects of cannabis include increased heart and respiratory rate, reddening of eyes and sleepiness. Continued use of cannabis leads to more respiratory problems, lung cancer, loss of energy, confused thinking, slow reactions, impaired memory and apathy. “Users of cannabis are likely to be violent and to commit crimes and continued use of hemp lead to mental illness.” (Fabiano&Maganga, 2002, p.125). Another effect of hemp is that the mood-altering chemical THC affects hormones in men and causes a temporary loss of fertility (Arterburn&Burns, 1989, p.76).

Tobacco. Long-term smoking of tobacco leads to cancer, heart diseases and respiratory diseases. Also tobacco smoke is one of the contributing agents to pollution of air (Dzonzi, 2004, p.87).

Other drugs (mandrax, cocaine and heroin). These drugs are more likely than hemp to cause mental illness, infertility, impotence, suicide or death from an overdose (Fabiano &Maganga 2004, p.126). The World Book Encyclopedia (1994, p.362), says alcohol can damage the liver, brain and heart, some users lose interest in school or work or have difficulty meeting the responsibilities of a job or family.


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Arterburn, Stephen & Burns, Jim (1989). Drug-Proof Your Kids; A Prevention Guide & An Intervention Plan. Pomona, California.

Bisika,Thomas et al.(2004). Drug Abuse and HIV/AIDS in Malawi; Results from a Rapid Situation Assessment. Centre for Social Research, University of Malawi.

Braathen, Stine H (2008). Substance Use and Abuse and its Implications in a Malawian Context- Pilot Project 1. SINTEF Health Report; Oslo, Norway.

Dzonzi,Lot(1998). Evangelical Association of Malawi. Lilongwe, Malawi.

Fabiano, Margaret &Maganga, John (2002). Malawi Secondary Social and Development Studies. Macmillan, Malawi.

Kabwila, V.P.(2000). Junior Secondary Population and Sexual Health Education in Social Studies. Malawi Institute of Education; Zomba, Malawi.

Malunda, Henry &Mpinganjira, Mercy (2009). Jhango, Social and Development Studies Book 4. Jhango Publishing Company, Blantyre.

Malawi Institute of Education (2011). Life Skills and Sexual and Reproduction Health for HIV and AIDS Education for Primary School in Malawi; A Training Manual, Domasi, Zomba.

Mueller, Walt (1998). Understanding Today’s Youth Culture. Wheaton, Illinois.

Peschke, Karl. (1993). Christian Ethics: Moral Theology in the Light of Vatican II. New Delhi, India.

Wilderson, David and Don (1971). The Untapped Generation. Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan.


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