OurHealth designed a questionnaire and circulated it to students with the teachers’ permission. Students were allowed to answer anonymously.

As part of the survey, students admitted to drinking excessively every weekend. Student responses showed that many believed drinking was safer than abusing other substances and that they thought alcohol was not addictive.

Thabo Nkosi* a student said: “Drinking alcohol is not dangerous. It’s cool and it’s not as bad as the other narcotics, like heroin.”

Although many South African who abuse substances abuse multiple substances, alcohol and dagga are the two leading causes of admission into rehabilitation and treatment centers run by the South African National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence (SANCA).

One of the school’s teachers, who did not wish to be named, said that students regularly came to school on Mondays or following public holidays drunk. Concerns about drinking during school hours have led school officials to ban students from leaving campus during lunch breaks because some students do not come back or return drunk.

“Alcohol is easily accessible for anyone with the money to buy it,” the teacher said. “The girls get money from their sugar daddies, and some boys get the money from illegal gambling or stealing,”

As part of the survey, one 16-year-old boy reported frequently buying alcohol and that he had never been asked about his age by alcohol vendor.

Excessive drinking is also affecting unemployed youth like 21-year-old Bandile Shongwe.*

“I drink almost everyday (because) it helps me escape reality,” he said.

Wandile Mayekiso a local medical practitioner who said that alcohol abuse not only affects individuals but also communities.

“Drinking alcohol excessively is not good and most young people are doing exactly that,” Mayekiso said. “It impairs a person’s driving ability, and most fatal accidents are because of excessive drinking.”

“Alcohol abuse can damage essential organs like the liver, heart and pancreas,” he added. “This will increase the number of people who will need organ transplants.”

Substance abuse can lead to people engaging in unprotected sex, which increases a person’s risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections like HIV, he added.