A large number of homicide and road traffic victims in the Western Cape test positive for alcohol consumption - Rapid Review of Burden of Diseases report. Picture: AP
A large number of homicide and road traffic victims in the Western Cape test positive for alcohol consumption - Rapid Review of Burden of Diseases report. Picture: AP

Report shows alcohol dependence is a massive problem in the Western Cape

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Feb 25, 2020

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Cape Town - Half of all homicide victims in the province tested positive for alcohol consumption and 45% had blood concentration higher than the legal driving limit, according to the Rapid Review of Burden of Diseases report by Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo.

The report, launched last week, also stated that 48% of road traffic victims had tested positive for alcohol consumption, and 42% had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit.

University of Cape Town head of psychiatry and mental health, Professor Dan Stein, said the most prevalent substance use disorder in South Africa, including the Western Cape, was alcohol dependence.

“The Western Cape does not have higher rates of all disorders, but it does have higher rates of substance use disorders than other provinces.”

Flicky Gildenhuys, director of alcohol and drug treatment facility, Ixande, said factors pertaining to alcohol dependency in the province were historical and some due to early use and societal attitudes towards consumption of alcohol.

“Historically, the apartheid era utilised the ‘dop’ system in the farming communities. Part of farmworkers’ wages were received in alcohol, especially on the province’s wine farms,” he said.

“This led to high levels of alcoholism and foetal alcohol syndrome in babies born to alcoholic mothers. Unfortunately the legacy of this system continues and high levels of alcohol dependency are reported in poor farming communities.”

Alcohol was easily accessible to teens, who began to drink at an age when the brain was vulnerable to developing dependency.

The alcohol industry generated about R88 billion in tax revenue every year, however, the costs to the country associated with alcohol harm were three times greater, between R246 billion and R281bn.

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa) said these costs were health-related, with alcohol linked to a wide variety of non-communicable diseases, including seven different kinds of cancer.

Saapa director Maurice Smithers said that the government must introduce stricter legislation to control the sale and consumption of alcohol.

“The aim is to create an alcohol-safe society in which people who do drink do so in a way that does not cause harm, to themselves or to other people.

“Alcohol is linked to many kinds of violence, including gender-based violence, as well as a large number of motor car crashes,” said Smithers.

“Governments have to take responsibility and ensure that legislation is passed and that such legislation is specifically geared to protect the health, security and well-being of the population,” he said.

See the full report here: 

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