More than one billion people today are believed to be aged between 15 and 24 years of age and nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population is below the age of 20.
The majority of young people, 85 per cent, live in developing countries including Solomon Islands.
By 2025, the number of youths living in developing countries will grow to 89.5 per cent.
In the next decade, more than one billion young people will enter the working age population worldwide, it was predicted.
Economists have acknowledged that young people are an important population group and a great potential for economic and social development as they are most productive and powerful human resources.
On the other hand they are like a time bomb which may explode and cause problem, if they are not employed and cannot be controlled.
And this is worrying trend for our leaders and the country.
As a result of unemployment other issues which have confronted the bulging youth population in the developing nation is related to sex, drug abuse and crime.
In any country, drug is one of the major concern leaders both political and church have confronted with.
Medical experts have also raised this issue of increasing drug problem that is happening now a days.
More young people are abusing drugs today than in any other time in history, and many of those people are youth.
The connection between youth and drug abuse raises several questions, like; why are young people at risk of drug abuse? Why do young people use drugs? What is wrong with doing drugs when people have been doing them for centuries?
There is a lot to answer in these regard. But that reasons to believe why many youths have resort to these bad habits.
Early this week on Sunday night, one of the long time renowned surgeons Dr Chester Kuma has spoken out raising the alarm about the increasing drug related problem in this country.
Its courage from a local who has been in the medical field having worked here and then moved to Australia while observing the trend that is taking place in the country.
Solomon Islands is predicted to reach more than 600, 000 people by this year and the young population stands at 65% of the total population or even more.
The final result of the recent census will confirm this.
But with lack of opportunities in the employment sector, this problem of drug abuse and other related social problems amongst youths has posed bigger problem for the country and its leaders.
Drugs are substances which are used for proper use such as in medical treatment.
But on the other hand there are drugs which are being abused which lead to problems affecting our youths.
According to experts a psychoactive substance is something that people take to change the way they feel, think or behave.
Some of these substances are called drugs, and others, like alcohol and tobacco, are considered dangerous but are not called drugs.
The term drugs also covers a number of substances that must be used under medical supervision to treat illnesses.
However in Solomon islands, we have drugs as those man-made or naturally occurring substances used without medical supervision basically to change the way a person feels, thinks or behaves so that they can have fun.
Researchers said most drugs were made from plants which were grown and then converted into drugs such as coca paste, opium and marijuana.
Over the years, these crude products were further processed to yield drugs like cocaine and heroin, and finally, in the 20th century, people found out how to make drugs from chemicals.
These are called man-made, or synthetic, drugs and include speed, ecstasy, LSD, etc.
These were initially manufactured for largely experimental reasons and only later were used for recreational purposes.
Now, however, with the increased size and scope of the drug trade, people set out to invent drugs especially for recreational human consumption.
Substance abuse has many negative physiological health effects, ranging from minor issues like digestion problems or respiratory infections, to potentially fatal diseases, like AIDS and hepatitis C, medical experts said.
Dr Kuma in his presentation said that drug abuse has caused brain damage, depending on the drug, the strength and character of this damage varies.
“Drug abuse affects the way the brain functions and alters its responses to the world,” he said.
He pointed out that drug abuse damages the ability of people to act as free and conscious beings, capable of taking action to fulfill their needs.
Additionally, there are some drugs like heroin and crack cocaine that are highly addictive.
This means that even if they are used recreationally, they tend to induce physical dependence, leading to an increased need for the drug.
In our case, in Solomon Islands, Marijuana and homebrew or commonly known as ‘kwaso’ is becoming a problem for youths.
Dr Kuma said he seen young who died of drinking kwaso because it burns their organs.
In the country many youths normally drink kwaso while smoking marijuana to feel the kick very fast.
Infact they are killing themselves with these substances without knowing it.
Dr Kuma warned that Solomon Islands has a problem with drugs especially marijuana and kwaso.
And more awareness on this problem needs to be raised to the youths.
He said because of ignorance young people are not wary about the health advice that are being made to them time and time again.
Apart from these two other substance smoking at a young age is a problem facing the country.
A book written about smoking in Solomon Islands said that the pervasive use of tobacco and psychoactive substances is becoming an increasing problem in the Solomon Islands.
The change from a traditional betel chewing community to a society with multi-substance use and abuse gathered momentum after the second world war.
Tobacco and alcohol were introduced by whalers and traders in the 19th century.
With the exception of betel nuts, there is not a single reference to the consumption of neither marijuana or other drugs.
Simply, because at that time these substances were unknown among the islanders.
Since then the use of alcohol and tobacco has gradually increased without any serious intervention by neither the government, health and educational authorities, nor by the many churches and missions.
In the 1990's marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogenic plant drugs and the misuse of prescription- and nonprescription drugs appeared on the drug scene.
Especially the use of marijuana has exploded in the country.
Youths are now planting them to enjoy while earning a little income from its sales.
Around 1995 many young people were hanging around smoking marijuana, and drinking home brew in Honiara and the rural communities.
This trend had seen the changing lifestyle affecting the country more so the young people of this country.
Each year thousands of students left school without any support for further education or employment.
Many of them are being left to support themselves.
Most of them became dependent on their family members.
In most cases, they ended in problems related to drug, alcohol and smoking.
In Honiara, there are handsome young men who are mentally sick.
You see them walking up and down the streets of Honiara.
Sometimes they bashed up innocent people walking by the street which also raises concern amongst the public.
Nothing can be done about them, even with locking them up at Kilu’ufi mental hospital.
They sometimes risk being mowed down by the traffic because they don’t dare stopping before crossing.
They can cross the road any time without hesitation.
These drugs had altered their judgement and it slowly distorted their brain and mind.
In the long run it affects their diet and they grow skinny and untidy.
Its also a pity seeing them picking food from the trash cans along the streets.
And the number is growing every year.
This is not only in Honiara but in the provincial centres, there are cases of mentally retard young people living in the community as a result of smoking marijuana and kwaso.
With the isolation of many islands in this country, it is hard to crack down the marijuana plantation, which are being farmed in the mountains of each island.
Therefore if this country is not careful Solomon Islands will continue to see more young people being mentally sick.
Indeed there is a lot of work to be done and it got to be team work.
To hear such a warning about the drug problem in the country from an experience medical export like Dr Kuma, is alarming and will threaten our youths who are important assets for this nation.
Its time responsible authorities should step up their effort and address it properly through partnership and approachable manner for the good of this nation.
By MOFFAT MAMU
MONDAY, 21 JUNE 2010