Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Russian Roulette

By Phila Dlamini -Vilakati | 2017-11-06

Russian roulette is a deadly game in which a person loads a single bullet in the cylinder of a revolver; spins the cylinder so that the location of the bullet is unknown; points the weapon placing the muzzle against their head, and pulls the trigger.

It is lethal game of chance. Roulette in itself refers to the element of risk-taking whereby the outcome is not known and in fact can be fatal. Who in their good mind can play such a stupid game? I would relate this game to the risk of taking drugs. Most of us do not know the real truth about substance abuse and the best way to convey the truth about drugs is through the words of those who have “been there.”

As an educator…I feel obligated at all times to shed some light to my students on many things other than teaching English Language alone. We were discussing drugs the other day and I realised many adults themselves get involved because they did not actually know the truth. Most of us only got stern warnings from our parents not to drink and smoke but they never clearly explain the real facts against such habits.

Well here it goes…


Drugs are essentially poisons. The amount taken determines the effect. A small amount acts as a stimulant (speeds you up). A greater amount acts as a sedative (slows you down). An even larger amount poisons and can kill. This is true of any drug. Only the amount needed to achieve the effect differs. But many drugs have another liability: they directly affect the mind. They can distort the user’s perception of what is happening around him or her. As a result, the person’s actions may be odd, irrational, inappropriate and even destructive.

Drugs block off all sensations, the desirable ones with the unwanted. So, while providing  short-term help in the relief of pain, they also wipe out ability and alertness and muddy one’s thinking. Medicines are drugs that are intended to speed up or slow down or change something about the way your body is working, to try to make it work better. Sometimes they are necessary. But they are still drugs: they act as stimulants or sedatives, and too much can kill you. So if you do not use medicines as they are supposed to be used, they can be as dangerous as illegal drugs.


People take drugs because they want to change something in their lives.

Here are some of the reasons young people have given for taking drugs:

To fit in

To escape or relax

To relieve boredom

To seem grown up

To rebel

To experiment

They think drugs are a solution. But eventually, the drugs become the problem.

Difficult as it may be to face one’s problems, the consequences of drug use are always worse than the problem one is trying to solve with them.

The real answer is to get the facts and not to take drugs in the first place.

One lie told about drugs is that they help a person become more creative. The truth is quite different.

Someone who is sad might use drugs to get a feeling of happiness, but it does not work. Drugs can lift a person into a fake kind of cheerfulness, but when the drug wears off, he or she crashes even lower than before. And each time, the emotional plunge is lower and lower. Eventually, drugs will completely destroy all the creativity a person has. When teens were surveyed to find out why they started using drugs in the first place, 55% replied that it was due to pressure from their friends. They wanted to be cool and popular. Dealers know this.

They will approach you as a friend and offer to “help you out” with “something to bring you up.” The drug will “help you fit in” or “make you cool.”

Drug dealers, motivated by the profits they make, will say anything to get you to buy their drugs.

They will tell you that “cocaine will make your life a party” and that “heroin is a warm blanket.” If you take Ecstasy, “you can be with a lot of girls.”

They don’t care if the drugs ruin your life as long as they are getting paid. All they care about is money. Former dealers have admitted they saw their buyers as “pawns in a chess game.”

Get the facts about drugs. Make your own decisions.

Prolonged use causes long-lasting and perhaps permanent damage to the brain, affecting the person’s judgment and thinking ability. Sooner or later the person becomes an addict. I have had the privilege of spending some time with recovered addicts. I have realised that by telling their stories, they can pass on what they have learned so that others avoid going down the same path.

I have shared these stories with my students who engage in substances already. For some reason the lifestyle fascinates you. You think its going to be fun; a very dangerous road to go down. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with your life, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.

No matter what the initial reasonn is for a person to start taking drugs, the end result is invariably the same—disaster. As educators, we want to help the youth stay clear of drugs and we need to reach them before the dealers do. If the dealers have beat us to it, we have to reach our children before they get addicted, because now… that’s another story altogether!!!


Tolerance | more of the substance needed to feel the same effect,

Dependence | a person is no longer able to function without the drug. They become physically addicted to the chemical of choice.

Dysphoria | excessive negativity; may cause a person to relapse in order to gain control of emotions

Sensitisation | greater responsiveness to a drug, which is what makes people more likely to relapse if they have gone for a period of time without using.

There is still so much misunderstanding and stigma around addiction. In the past, the addict was dismissed as being “weak-willed” or having poor control. There has been a long standing debate whether addiction is a choice or a disease. You don’t really know the difference until you are directly involved.

Addiction, Doctors say, is “the only disease that tells the sufferer he doesn’t have a disease.”

Many believe addiction is not a disease because it’s caused by the person’s choice to use drugs and/or alcohol. That’s true. The first time is a choice. But keep this in mind- nobody wakes up and says, “I’m going to be an addict today”. Left to choice, no one would ever choose to live as an addict. But there is one choice addicted persons make. That’s how long they will stay sick. While addiction may not be a choice, recovery is. The trouble is, the addicted person isn’t in their right mind, so sometimes families may have to step in and make that choice for them. Addiction is hell both for the person caught up in it and the family who loves them.

There are many myths about addiction. One is that the addicted person needs to hit rock bottom before they realise they need help. The other is that; addicts must want to get well. I have since learnt that most patients who are in rehab find that they are there because they’d run out of options or their family intervened.

Whether addiction is a disease, a brain injury, a mental illness or a choice, no amount of yelling, nagging, pleading, cajoling, rewarding, or controlling, will help. In order for someone to want to change, there must be consequences. Consequences are what motivate change. If your person is resistant, involve professionals. There are many resources available to you. Get people involved. Do not attempt to try and do this alone. Remember your loved one is not at their best right now. Don’t expect them to be happy you’re confronting their illness or setting healthy boundaries. They will thank you for it later. Addiction is a very treatable illness. With the right help, addicted persons can and do recover.


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