Growing substance abuse challenge in South Africa

Substance abuse is a global challenge with detrimental effects on health, wealth and security of nations, according to panelists who addressed a media briefing hosted by the Soul City Institute for Social Justice today.

Soul City Institute commissioned a literature review on “Drug and Substance Abuse amongst Youth and Young Women in South Africa” which was conducted by Bongiwe Ndondo.

Ndondo who conducted the review was joined by Dr. David Bayever, Deputy Chairperson at Central Drug Authority which has an independent mandate but is housed in the Department of Social Development.

Ndondo said South Africa has a serious drug usage problem, highlighted in the literature as being twice that of the global norm.

“Generally drug abuse is more pronounced among males than females. Outside of cannabis, over the counter and prescription drugs are the most abused substances among both males and females,” said Ndondo.

Current information suggests that illegal drug consumption costs the South African economy 6.4% of GDP or R136 billion per year, and these costs are a result of treatment, social development, policing and education and awareness raising.

Dr Bayever raised concern about the 3000 South Africans jailed for drug trafficking around the world of which a large proportion were women. He said young girls were particularly vulnerable and easily lured into what appeared as a lavish lifestyle. Dr Bayever further highlighted that young women were recruited in schools and tertiary institutions where education is disrupted with the promise of a healthy reward.

“Introducing drugs, including alcohol, when under the age of 25, while the brain and body are still developing may have profound and life-long effects which are often only identified in later years,” said Bayever.

Both speakers highlighted the limited availability of treatment for substance abuse in the form of rehabilitation centres and after-care services for the user and the support system of the user. Dr Bayever emphasized that substance abuse is a recognised as a mental illness requiring life-long treatment.

The new National Drug Master Plan 2018-2022 is currently being developed through a consultative national process involving stakeholders from government, civil society and those who abuse substances.

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