South Africa’s illegal drug use is spiralling out of control with the country among the top 10 narcotics and alcohol abusers in the world. Picture: File/ANA Pictures

Cape Town - South Africa’s illegal drug use is spiralling out of control with the country among the top 10 narcotics and alcohol abusers in the world - twice the world norm.

What’s even more alarming, according to the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use, is that the average age of experimentation in South Africa is now 12.

With World Drug Awareness day coming on Monday, Shelley Andersen, addictions counsellor at Akeso Clinic, said we were not winning the war against drugs.

“Psychiatric hospitals and treatment centres in conjunction with the DSD (Department of Social Development) are largely looking at prevention and outpatient programmes to try to address the problems. The SAPS and customs border control units are facing a huge task to try and combat smuggling and dealing in narcotics."

“One person may be eliminated only for another to replace them. Drug courts are also necessary, as our prison systems can’t cope with capacity currently, and often minor drug offenders are put into the prison system without receiving help and with no treatment programmes being available,” she said.

Eugene du Plessis, who owns a mobile drug-testing clinic, said the state of South Africa’s drug problem was “horrific”.

“Between drugs and alcohol, we face a much more prevalent issue with drugs,” he said. South Africa had progressed in its methods to raise awareness of drug abuse, he added. 

"The root of the problem is peer pressure,” he added.

Du Plessis said the real problem with drug rehabilitation centres was that they were simply too expensive, making it difficult to accommodate high levels of addicts.

“This is where churches need to play a good role to assist,” he added.

Cape Argus