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Drugs have become an epidemic, with more than 15 percent of South Africans addicted to substances.
“Everyone is prone to it and affected by it. We’re living in an epidemic. More people live with and die from an addiction than from HIV/Aids in South Africa,” said Addiction Action Campaign chief executive Warren Whitfield.
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2009 report 15 percent of South Africa’s population are problem drug users, meaning that 7.5 million people need addiction treatment.
But less than 1 percent can afford it.
“We receive at least 99 percent of our enquiries from people who can’t even afford the cheapest programmes,” Whitfield said.
Last week was Drug Awareness Week and it is important to highlight just how much of a problem addiction is in the country.
He said drugs did not discriminate between socio-economic backgrounds, race, sex, class or religion. It affects everyone, directly or indirectly. Whitfield said drugs were prevalent in affluent suburbs.
“There isn’t an area in South Africa that is not affected by drug addiction or alcoholism.
”Addiction tends to last longer as long as you have money and tends to become exposed when one breaks the law or runs out of money,” Whitfield said, adding that most of the telephonic requests they got were from the Sandton/Randburg areas.
And there had been an increase in drug use in the greater Johannesburg area with drugs easily accessible in neighbourhoods, schools, on street corners and in parks.
Drugs can be bought from dealers in schools, and dealers even make home deliveries.
It was no longer about how to get drugs but rather what was the most convenient way of getting them, said Quintin van Kerken of the Anti-Drug Alliance SA.
The SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence lists 52 types of drugs, including tranquillisers, over-the-counter drugs and steroids.
Alcohol, dagga, medication, tobacco and glue are the most used drugs followed by heroin, cocaine and mandrax.
“There are just too many people living in South Africa with an addiction,” said Whitfield.
“Once a client and a dealer have exchanged numbers, there is hardly any risk involved in making purchases as dealers deliver to your door now.”
The Central Drug Authority released a study done in 2010 to the Department of Social Development in September last year. Among the findings:
* Drug use in South Africa was at twice the world norm.
* Poverty, crime, drugs and unemployment ranked as the highest community concerns.
* 40 percent of people knew of support structures; 60 percent did not.
* Alcohol, dagga, medication, tobacco and glue were the most used drugs followed by heroin, cocaine and mandrax.
* Communities associated crime, violence, abnormal behaviour, HIV/Aids, death and damage to the body as social ills connected to drug abuse.
* Factors increasing the abuse of drugs were unemployment, poverty, lack of parenting, influence, lack of knowledge and mental illness. Family history and availability of drugs were the highest-ranking factors.