My relationship with dagga began at the age of 14 when a friend who had moved from Johannesburg to Durban introduced me to it. I was curious to see what the effects of the drug were and didn't need much convincing to give it a try. Being a teenager meant that being accepted by my peers was of paramount importance and I truly believed that being known as a dagga smoker would make me 'cool' in the eyes of those around me.

Dagga helped me to ignore the responsibilities of daily life and took hold of me quickly. As my addiction grew, I began to experience the dark side of a drug which many claim is 'soft' and the use of which is often described as harmless fun. My physical health deteriorated and I was continuously ill. I was so addicted that I would smoke dagga while ill, even when it hurt my chest terribly to do so. After being prescribed antibiotics, I would continue to smoke dagga with no thought of any possible side-effects and in the process rendering the medication ineffective. My health took years to rebuild after I finally parted with this drug.

Psychologically I suffered terribly and was placed on anti-depressant medication shortly after I began smoking dagga. It would be over 12 years before I would no longer need to rely on these tablets. As I lost my motivation to achieve the colour drained from my life. Everything around me was grey and lifeless. I lost any sense of purpose or belief in a reason for existing. Getting out of bed in the morning became a struggle and I became increasingly isolated and anti-social, seldom leaving home. I grew insecure and excessively self-conscious and could not function socially anymore. In social situations I would hide in the background and remain silent at all times, fearing to draw any attention to myself. I began to see things in my room at night and heard my name being whispered outside my window. Looking back I see that I was walking a fine line between sanity and psychosis. I became increasingly paranoid and eventually did not even feel safe with friends I had known my entire life. I began to suspect that they secretly hated me and had plans to harm me. These are just some of the results of the severe upheaval I had caused to my brain through the use of a supposedly harmless substance.

Academically things deteriorated rapidly. I had started my first year of high school in grade 8 'A' after excelling at primary school. Every year after that I dropped a grade as my dagga intake continued and increased. Grade 9 'B", grade 10 'C' and then I failed grade 11. Non-attendance of school became the norm and I was absent for approximately 100 days of my second year of grade 11 and approximately the same number of days in my matric year. My addiction to dagga robbed me of many great opportunities to further myself.

Tension increased at home and I became increasingly aggressive and argued violently with my family. My relationships with the members of my family were destroyed. Dagga drove a wedge between me and those I loved the most. I became rebellious to the point of complete anarchy and would submit to no authority, rules or instructions from teachers, my parents or others, even breaking the law with friends. Dagga was the first illegal drug I smoked. After I had crossed that line I no longer feared drugs as I had before. Dagga was the gate that opened on to the path that led the way to experimentation with other drugs in later years and which almost destroyed me.

Had the Lord not intervened in my life and had I not been helped by CYPSA, I am confident that I would have lost my mind to dagga years ago. Over the past couple of years I have met dozens of individuals who are psychotic as a result of using dagga and who will never be normal again. Not even medication can help them and it is only through God's grace that I have been spared and am of a sound mind today.

I was astonished to hear of the case taking place in the High Court which involves a movement who are pushing for the legalization of dagga in our country. As a person who has experienced the living hell of dagga addiction first hand, I was amazed to discover that there were in fact individuals who believe that the legalization of this drug is the way forward for our nation.

Legalizing dagga will destroy the youth and the fabric of society and will lead South Africa head first into a downward spiral of catastrophic proportions.