Retired Professor of Medicine at UCT Dan Ncayiyana said there are dangers in forcing drug-dependent people to go cold turkey such as psychosis, convulsions and even death. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency(ANA)
Retired Professor of Medicine at UCT Dan Ncayiyana said there are dangers in forcing drug-dependent people to go cold turkey such as psychosis, convulsions and even death. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency(ANA)

Covid-19 lockdown restrictions put drug and alcohol dependents at risk

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Apr 1, 2020

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Cape Town - The restrictions on alcohol and tobacco sales announced as part of the pandemic lockdown measures have been condemned as a possible pathway to social and medical problems that could worsen an already stressful situation.

Retired Professor of Medicine at UCT Dan Ncayiyana said: “While the government’s action in enforcing the lockdown and getting ahead of the curve is commendable, it is jarring that they have decided to mix up the campaign against the coronavirus and their mission to try to get citizens to drop harmful habits. These are unrelated issues.

“This is the work of zealots in the Health Department being opportunists and dicing with people’s health. As medical people and we are all aware of the dangers of forcing drug dependent people to go cold turkey,” said Ncayiyana.

“There are great risks in abrupt cessation including psychosis, convulsions and even death and the restriction have put at risk everyone who is drug or alcohol dependent.”

Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance director Maurice Smithers said: “While the alliance welcomes the liquor regulations, there are unintended consequences which may arise as a result of the measures.

“The one is that people who are heavy drinkers or alcoholics could drink other substances as a substitute for alcohol. These could include methylated spirits, perfumes or even hand sanitisers.

“We therefore urge government to offer relief services to such people so that they have someone to talk to rather than risk their lives consuming toxic substances,” said Smithers.

Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre director Ashley Potts said: “The government should have consulted with addiction professionals before putting these measures in place. This lockdown will invite the criminal element to meet the need for alcohol and tobacco by increasing the supply of contraband alcohol and tobacco.”

@MwangiGithahu

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Cape Argus

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