n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Learners' general attitudes and views on experimenting with drugs

Volume 16, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The purpose of the this research was to provide relevant stakeholders with the information they need to plan effective problem-solving strategies, to compile policies and programmes that will address the problem of drug abuse in South African schools. By doing so, they researchers hope to help create a safe and conducive learning environment. The aim of the survey was to determine the perceptions, the extent to which learners experiment with drugs and the learners' general attitude towards drug usage.

The project comprised a sample of 1980 selected learners from 35 primary and secondary schools from District 4 in Pretoria. These learners were asked to complete the structured questionnaires. The findings of this study indicated that there are significant percentages of learners who are involved in illegal substance abuse. One quarter (24,6%) of the sample had already experimented with inhalants, nearly 22% (21,9) had already smoked cocaine or mandrax, one quarter (27,3%) had previously used other "hard drugs" such as mandrax, ecstasy and LSD, 7,7% had previously injected themselves with illegal substances such as heroin, cocaine and a cocktail of drugs while 16,7% had sniffed cocaine.
Close to one quarter of the respondents believed that taking an illegal drug once would not do them any harm, while almost the same number of respondents believed that it "was fun" to experiment with drugs because of its illegal status. Almost two thirds of the participants stated that people start to take illegal drugs as a result of peer group pressure. An overwhelming majority of the respondents agreed that people who have drug problems should be rehabilitated (helped) rather than punished. The majority of the respondents confirmed the generality and social acceptability of taking drugs as the reason for changed social norms pertaining to drug use as well as to the increased participation in such activities. The majority of the learners also agreed, however, that using a variety of illegal drugs is relatively dangerous; three in ten respondents believed that a person must be under the influence of drugs (on a high) to enjoy a rave party. One in six of the respondents maintained that learners should take steroids to improve their sport performance at school level - a view that was strongly rejected by the greater majority of their counterparts.

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