Teenage alcohol abuse is at alarming rates in South Africa and there is no sign that the trend will decrease. If no drastic intervention is implemented to curb the problem, young people growing up in a country that has an entrenched culture of drinking like South Africa, will invariably start drinking when they are underage, a fact that various research statistics attest to.

This week’s Special Assignment profiles the stories of young, recovering alcoholics who started drinking in their early teens. Twenty year-old Kabelo Mboka from Soshanguve in Pretoria booked himself in for six weeks in an addictions rehabilitation facility. He returns to the same environment in which he used to drink, where every day triggers threaten his recovery. Kabelo is one of the few youngsters fortunate enough to get help while many others remain trapped in a binge-drinking cycle which often results in serious consequences, and is, in some cases, fatal.

The government wants to change the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 and the Liquor Board is calling on community members to inform them about outlets that are illegally selling alcohol to underage drinkers, promising to shut them down within 48 hours. In light of our case studies’ stories, will this make any difference to young people’s consumption of alcohol?

Watch “Empty Bottles – Shattered Lives” produced by Cleopatra Jones, on Special Assignment – broadcast Sundays on SABC 3 at 20:30PM. Repeated Wednesdays at 23:30PM.