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Johannesburg - The war against drugs has been lost, with one in three middle-class South Africans using an illegal substance for recreational purposes.
This was revealed in the Anti Drug Alliance’s annual survey and report.
The alliance spoke to drug treatment centres, the police and paramedics to get a picture of drug abuse in the country.
“It showed us as a nation under siege. The reality is that everyone seemed to be saying the war against drugs was lost, that South Africa had been hit by a drug tsunami, and that fighting the problem was ineffective,” said Anti Drug Alliance chief executive Quintin van Kerken.
The survey was completed by 35 433 people online as well as 22 376 people through e-mail, phone calls and social media portals. This means a total of 57 809 responses.
The majority of respondents lived in Gauteng and the Western Cape, were aged 22 to 45, were employed full-time and either drank no alcohol or drank two to three times a week.
Just over a third of the respondents – 34 percent – admitted to taking drugs themselves.
The majority of users favoured dagga (32 percent) followed by cocaine, cat and LSD.
Most users spent up to R200 a month on drugs, but 13 percent spent up to R500 while a further 13 percent spent up to R3 000 a month. Two percent spent up to R10 000 a month on drugs.
Most of those surveyed did not have tattoos, did not smoke cigarettes, did not watch porn and did not gamble.
Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed said they believed South Africa did have a drug problem and thought the government was not doing enough to solve this.
The Anti Drug Alliance decided to interview teenagers personally, and spoke to 2 512 teens from various schools.
Of these, 69 percent said drugs were available at their school, and 34 percent said they had used drugs in the previous six months.
Comparing the results with the previous year’s survey, the alliance found that dagga use was up 11 percent, nyaope was up 9 percent and tik abuse had nearly doubled in the past year (up 88 percent), while cat was up 82 percent.
Many cocaine addicts had moved to using cat.
“This could be attributed to cost, as cocaine has seen an increase in price per gram,” the survey states.
Magic mushrooms appear to have surged in popularity, as has LSD.
Rehabilitation centres had seen an increase in people checking in over the past year.
The centres told the alliance they had seen a growth of 25 percent.
Some people were returning to rehab up to nine times.
Van Kerken said that every day more and more dealers were on the street. “Sadly, there would not be so many drug dealers if there were not so many drug users,” he said.
“The fact is that we have lost the war, and all that the government is doing is spending billions on catching a few criminals who are trafficking large quantities of drugs.”
Van Kerken said that when a dealer was removed, he or she was simply replaced by someone else.
He called for the legalisation of drugs as a solution to the problem because the current system was not working.
He said the possession of soft drugs such as dagga was seen as a time waster in court, and people were simply given a warning and let go.
The alliance believes the police are stopping maybe 5 to 10 percent of the drugs flowing into the country and does not believe it makes any sense to criminalise a person who suffers from an addiction.