‘Declare drug addiction a pandemic’


. . .  parents of addicts say their lives are in danger


MASERU – With the recent trends such as the rise in prescription drug abuse and the emergence of new drugs, parents of drug addicts are seeking intervention from relevant stakeholders to cope with addictive behavior among their children. Parents interviewed by Public Eye this week said they are wondering when Lesotho is going to start treating drug addiction as a pandemic. To address this issue effectively parents believe they must recognise that there are often several underlying issues that lead to drug use.

These can range from economic hardship and unemployment to mental health challenges, peer pressure, and social inequalities. They said these disrupt families, increase crime and exert stress on the healthcare system while limiting the potential of youth and suppress their dreams and aspirations.

They raised these issues at an event whose aim was to amplify the efforts, highlighting drug abuse among teenagers held in Maseru this week. Pontšo Tumisi, a member of a group of mothers called Mokhosi oa ’Mangoana, which is an assembly of the victims and mothers of drug addicts, said they encountered a lot of challenges because of drug addiction.

Members of this group said they tried to get help but to no avail. Tumisi said as much as their children were harming and killing them, they as parents still saw them as their children who needed help. “We do not perceive our children as criminals,” said Tumisi. “They are still our children. They have reasons why they are into drugs and they need help.”

Tumisi added that their journey had never been easy since no one wanted to listen to their cry despite that they knocked on almost every door trying to get help for their lives were in danger.  Tumisi said she couldn’t believe it when she heard that her daughter was abusing drugs, adding that was the start of her misery. The parent said they discovered a lot of things to such an extent that they ended up putting their lives in danger. She said, among other things, they became they tried to give out information to the police, but to no avail.  

Tumisi said they also realised that the other problem was the limited facilities available to help deal with drug addicts.

“It is true that most of our kids are ignorant and peer pressure is the main reason why they end up being drug addicts.

“Some of it is due to family instability, while others resort to drugs because they have nothing to do so they need a rehabilitation centre to help them deal with the condition,” she said. Tumisi appealed law enforcers to intervene and deal with drug lords who she said were the foundation of drug addiction in Lesotho. She said they had also realised that there was insufficient education about drug addiction and the hardships that families and parents who raised drug addicts went through.

While law enforcement must deal with drug-related issues daily, they believed they could not solve the problem on their own therefore they had also appealed to parents to assist in any possible way that they can.

Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Tšeliso Moerane said their work as the police was to prevent crime, arrest people and sent them to courts. Moerane said they used to sensitise youths all over the country during school holidays. He said apart from that they had a number of operations where they arrested drug lords and those who were selling drugs.

Mphonyane Mofokeng, the founder of Anti-Drug Abuse Association of Lesotho (ADAAL), said one of their main targets was prevention and treatment, as well as helping drug addicts with counselling, but said they did not have residential rehabilitation.

Mofokeng said as a result they referred them to South Africa.

She said they also worked with advocacy for legislation and policies to provide a conducive environment.

The ADDAL founder said they were expecting law enforcers to enforce the laws, saying the current laws were outdated and not relevant to the present problem.

Political Economic Officer of the United States Embassy, Jullion Cooper, said they faced struggles with drug abuse and often responded with an overreliance on imprisonment as a solution. 

Cooper, however, said there was a growing recognition among policymakers that a different approach was needed.

“The embassy is now actively working to recalibrate the response and shift the focus from punitive measures to treatment and rehabilitation,” said Cooper.  

“We are investing in creating job opportunities for those struggling with drug abuse, recognising that this approach is both more effective and more compassionate.”

Cooper added: “We have learned this lesson in the United States through our experience with this challenging issue and we are eager to share these experiences with our friends here in Lesotho as we work together to tackle this problem.”

Cooper said the embassy could prioritise the economic well-being of young citizens since lack of economic opportunities was a significant contributing factor to the drug problem, while creating job opportunities, offering skills training and supporting entrepreneurship initiatives could empower them to lead productive lives.

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