Youths find themselves exposed to all sorts of vices. As if alchohol abuse has not been enough of a problem over the years, prescription pills, amongst other drugs, seem to have taken over.
Drug abuse among Botswana’s youth seems to have grown in tandem with the the significant spike in alchohol prices and subsequent decrease of liquor trading hours.
From the moment Collie Budd* swallowed Vitamin R first as an experiment, he was hooked. “You’ll catch a wake up,” he says, wide-eyed.
For Collen, the heavy pressure of academic excellence and the need to keep afloat forced him to take down the little white pill.
After three years of using Ritalin to increase his studying concentration, Collen is now struggling to stop taking the prescription medicine.
“I started using Ritalin in secondary school after some coloured guy introduced it to me,” he says.
But since passing his Form Five with flying colours and gaining entry into the University of Botswana, he has won the trust of his parents by his apparent loss of interest in alcohol.
But that has been on the back of an addicion to Ritalin. Things have gone downhill for him. Apart from weight loss, he gets bi-polar, severe mood swings and constantly agitated.
Ritalin is a medical prescription drug that is used to treat patients diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder AD (H) D.
It is a stimulant that acts on dopamine, a chemical that is associated with pleasure in the brain.
During exams period when youths stay indoors, instead of drinking coffee or energy drinks such as monster, red bull or energade to stay awake so as to study, high school and university students now take Ritalin as a way of getting high during study.
Ritalin, otherwise known as Vitamin R is sold at P10 a pill and its sellers do brisk business in Gaborone. It is easily accessible in the numerous Indian pharmacies around town, the suppy source being neighbouring countries like South Africa.
Collen explains that initially students convince unsuspecting doctors by faking illness to get access to sick leaves which they alter.
“As there are no diagnostic tests carried out to examine if a person indeed has AD (H) D or not some people know how to convince doctors,” he says. “They even go to the extent of stealing doctor’s prescription pads including doctors’ stamps in order to get their hands on the pills.”
Caroline Gartland, a counsellor at the Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network (BOSASNET) says there are deep emotional problems that may influence a person to take drugs.
She says Ritalin is still a new phenomenon in Botswana that is still hard to monitor.
Mpho Motlhabani, from the public relations office of Botswana National Olympics Committee (BNOC) reveals that the International Olympic Committee has since banned the drug owing to its role as a performance enhancer.