Somnolent Cloud Hovering Towards a Generation

Oct 21 , 2023
By Eden Sahle

Of all the disturbing and tragic stories that make news, I find the situation with students alarming. From the devastating national examination results to the growing drug addiction, it seems the country is losing the next generation.

Schools not only focus on academics these days but also worry about controlling substance abuse including prescription drug use inside their premises.

The dire situation prompted the Ethiopian Food & Drug Authority (EFDA) to conduct a detailed study five years ago. It was done on students from ages 13-19 in 218 secondary schools in Addis Abeba.

The results concluded that eight out of 100 students from age 13-19 had fallen into prescription drug (Tramadol) abuse. Judging by the meagre attention it has gotten, it is safe to estimate the numbers may have grown over the years.

A couple of private schools I am familiar with started searching students’ belongings including water bottles and shoes in an attempt to control the crisis. The teachers and principals have baffling stories.

They found prescription drugs with students as young as 13 years old who show up to classrooms intoxicated and unable to keep their balance. Some are found collapsed and unconscious while the majority fall asleep during classes.

There were also cases where students tragically lost their lives at such a delicate age.

I met parents grieving the loss of their 17-year-old son from a drug overdose. He was supposed to attend a study session at a friend's house, only to succumb to the lethal effects of drugs that left his parents shattered and distraught.

Apparently, they often met to indulge in the activity under the guise of home study times right under the noses of their unsuspecting parents.

His friends, oblivious to the severity of the condition, kept him in bed for hours, expecting the effects to wear off. Sadly, he never regained consciousness.

Even for resilient ones, losing a child is too much to bear.

Another parent suffered the dual tragedy of losing their teenage daughter to drugs along with their unborn grandchild, whose existence was revealed during the autopsy report.

It has left them reeling, struggling to believe the reality. Though they had never imagined their children in such a dire predicament, they now realise there were clues they had overlooked, trusting their children's defences.

The reasons behind entanglement with drugs are endless with curiosity, peer pressure and family problems at home taking major shares. Amidst the cycle of guilt, anxiety, loss of interest and pain, students continue to hide under such ordeals.

Medical practitioners indicate that brain imaging of people with substance abuse shows physical changes in areas that are critical to decision-making, learning, memory, and behaviour control. The challenges get far more dangerous with teenagers as development is altered through drug abuse.

One brain region that continues to mature throughout adolescence is the prefrontal cortex, which plays a vital role in assessing situations, making sound decisions, and regulating emotions and desires.

The immaturity can jeopardise their full potential which in turn will reflect in the next generation.

Substance abuse crisis extends beyond the realm of parenting. It should be a national concern. While the country's efforts to address its long-standing academic failure are commendable, contributing factors, such as student drug use demand equal attention.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 21,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1225]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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