Dangers of substance abuse

Niko AllieBy Niko Allie

The festive season is a time for friends and family and for celebration. However, it is also a time when we sometimes overindulge and often make unwise judgement calls, which could have lasting repercussions.

One of the major issues that comes up during this period is the scourge of drug and substance abuse, which knows no bounds and cuts across race, class and social barriers. Many households know first-hand the reality of drug and substance abuse by a loved one, while many others know somebody grappling with addiction. 

Drugs and substance abuse loom large as a threat to our nation, and this scourge is fracturing families, communities and society. Entire families risk being destroyed by substance and drug abuse. 

The high prevalence of drugs and substance abuse within our communities is slowly beginning to strangle the lifeblood of society.  It is a fact that substance and drug abuse destroys lives and families and causes major health, social and economic hardship in South Africa. It further destroys the social fabric of society and leads to the disintegration of families and the destruction of lives. 

As government, we will not stand idly by and allow this scourge to claim our youth and destroy our society.  We are committed to working together with communities to create a safe and drug free environment. At the same time, we will continue to build partnerships with key stakeholders and strengthen existing ones in the fight against substance abuse.

Ultimately, we need everyone to stand up and fight. It is our joint responsibility to combat drug abuse and work to eradicate it in our communities. We should also not forget that the police need the support of all role players, and especially that of parents and communities to win the battle against drug abuse.

Our plan to fight the scourge of substance drug abuse is an integrated one.  The policy on the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Use Disorders provides a holistic framework to address the challenges caused by alcohol and substance use in the country.

It advances interventions aimed at the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of substance use disorders through a variety of sectoral interventions founded on the pillars of demand reduction, supply reduction, and harm reduction.

It is an integrated plan that needs the help of everyone to be successful, and emphasises the important role of parents, communities and non-governmental organisations.

We call on all members of society to play a role in raising awareness and provide the necessary support to those young people affected by drug and alcohol abuse. Addiction can be beaten and government appeals to drug users to seek help today.

Successful treatment for youth abusing alcohol and substances begins with early identification of tell-tale signs. Parents and guardians must be on the lookout for signs of drug abuse, which include possession of drug-related equipment such as pipes, rolling papers or small decongestant bottles. If children display symptoms of alcohol and substance abuse, parents and guardians are encouraged to discuss it openly with them, and assist them to find help.

Ending this scourge will require all of us to work together. We must ensure that those who seek to destroy our communities and the well-being of our children through their illegal actions have no place to hide.

We also call on liquor traders not to sell alcohol to minors and if they suspect that a patron visiting their establishment may be a minor, they should request an ID. The National Liquor Act states that serving alcohol to persons under the age of 18 years old is illegal.

For more information and assistance in fighting substance abuse, call the SADAG 24 hour Substance Abuse Helpline on 0800 12 13 14. You can also call the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) on 011 892 3829.

As we all look ahead to the festive season we encourage young people not to allow peer pressure to get the better of them; do not drink because your friends are drinking. Remember, you can still have fun without alcohol!