The South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use said a study it had done on drug use in the country showed a huge spike. File picture: Bor Slana/Reuters
Cape Town - The South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use said a study conducted on drug use in the country showed a huge spike.

“Given some of the frightening statistics on substance abuse in the country, there is an urgent need to educate people on the dangers and the treatments available,” said Marna Acker, an occupational therapist at Akeso Clinic. 

Those statistics indicate that the number of people who have been admitted to treatment centres rose from 8787 in 2016 to 10047 in 2017 across 80 centres countrywide. In the Western Cape 2902 people were admitted to more than 29 rehabilitation centres across the country.

“There are many factors that may make people vulnerable, including genetics, family background, mental health issues, work stress, financial pressure, and relationship problems,” Acker said.

The study also showed the age range of patients in treatment was 10 to 74 years.

A total of 38% of the patients in treatment were younger than 25 years, and 7% of those were between the ages of 10 and 14.

“There are also other factors involved, such as peer pressure - particularly when substance use is a norm; boredom, and the feeling of not having a sense of purpose can also be contributing factors, as can feelings of depression, anxiety, and lack of control,” Acker said.

The use of alcohol increased by 26% compared with 2016, when it rose 21%. The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance said this was mainly because alcohol was so accessible.

“The problem is there are too many illegal alcohol outlets in communities where people stay. What we should be looking into is raising the price of alcohol so that people can no longer afford it,” said spokesperson Aadielah Maker Diedericks.

Cocaine is the second most used substance in the Western Cape, with more than 29% of people at treatment centres admitted for using the substance.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development has launched its Substance Abuse Awareness Week, which will include the marking of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Tuesday.

“The department has allocated R104million to continue our work in tackling this scourge, and since 2014 a total of 35502 clients have accessed our substance abuse treatment services. Our campaign seeks to raise awareness about the dangers and effects of substance abuse, which includes alcohol abuse,” said MEC Albert Fritz.

The department had also expanded the adolescent Matrix Outpatient Programme to schools in Kuilsriver, Eerste River, Steenberg, Lavender Hill, Hout Bay and Elsies River, in addition to Child & Youth Care Centres. It also ran an inpatient treatment programme at Lindelani Youth Care Centre.

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