The Experiences of Families of Adolescents who use Substances at a Township in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa

Author(s): Kebogile Mokwena* and Lamasonto Ndhlovu


Background: As the prevalence of adolescent drug abuse increases in South Africa, families are subjected to the consequences of this risk behaviour of their relative. Many studies on adolescent substance abuse focus on the negative consequences of it on the user and less attention is given to the impact of adolescent family that is affected.

Purpose: The purpose aim of the study was to explore the experiences of families living with adolescents who abuse substances at a township in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.

Methodology: A qualitative design and purposive sampling was used to interview parents or caregivers of adolescents who use substances. The sample was recruited from families of adolescents who were referred to The South African National Council on Alcoholism SANCA. Socio-demographic data of both the participants and substance users were collected from the participants. NVIVO 12 software was used for thematic analysis of the data.

Results: A sample of 17 families of adolescent drug users consisted of 11 parents, 3 siblings, 2 grandparents, and 1 aunt. Their ages ranged from 30 to 58 years old. The majority (82%) were female, and 52% of participants were single. The majority of drug users (76%) were male and ranged in age from 14 to 19. Drugs commonly used by adolescents were daga, alcohol, and tobacco. The majority of adolescents (94%) were admitted to rehabilitation centers, but all had relapses. The qualitative data revealed nine themes that reflect a range of societal challenges faced by families, including family prejudices and challenges to parenting skills. Coping mechanisms included social and emotional support.

Conclusion: The findings show that families living with adolescents who abuse substances are faced with various challenges which affect their health, finances, dignity and relationships in their families. The study confirmed the serious challenge of substance abuse, which needs strategic interventions.

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