Pretoria - There needed to be closer cooperation between communities, local government and law enforcement agents to win the fight against drug abuse.
This was according to Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, who was speaking at a ceremony in Mabopane to mark the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Monday.
A statement from the Gauteng Department of Social Development said Mayathula-Khoza was joined by recovering addicts, families, supporting NPOs and social workers at the end of a door-to-door campaign in the area which saw more than 500 families participating in partnership with the City of Tshwane, Members of the Local Drug Action Committees (LDACs) and Community Development Workers.
"Community support and aftercare is extremely important to prevent, treat, rehabilitate and accept those addicted to substances. We need to break the stigma and promote faster recovery," Mayathula-Khoza said.
In Gauteng, a total of 22 882 service users accessed the treatment programmes, but only 6 066 participated in aftercare programmes during 2016/2017.
According to the South African Revenue Service, the known direct cost of drug abuse in 2005 was roughly R1 billion, while the social cost of illicit drug use was calculated using international data and was approximately R1, 4 billion annually.
She said it was sad to note the irony of both the Youth Day and international day against drug abuse were being commemorated in June.
"As we commemorate the heroics of the youth of 1976, we must also face the reality that the majority of our young people are ravaged by drugs."
Her sentiments were echoed by artist and social activist, Kabelo Mabalane, who urged government to give the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking the same impetus as 1 December, or World Aids Day.
"It doesn't take rocket science to see that drugs are killing our young people faster than HIV and Aids, so we must amplify this day and make more noise. We can't keep riding on the coat tails of 1976, we have a new struggle and this is it," Mabalane said.
He urged recovering addicts to stay connected to their social workers and support groups as this lessened the risk of relapsing.
"Even though I have been clean for 14 years 9 months and 25 days, I am always aware that I am one shot of whiskey away from relapse or a line of cocaine away from danger," he said, further encouraging young people gathered at the in Mabopane Indoor Facility to stay strong and accountable.
The campaign in Tshwane, one of the hardest-hit substance abuse areas in South Africa, reached crisis point earlier this year when the programme was established to help curb the escalating scourge of alcohol and drug abuse among youths especially the practice of "Bluetooth" - a trend by nyaope users who resort to sharing a "high by transfusion" in which the blood of an already drugged person is injected into another using syringes.
Susana Ncala, 35, a mother-of-three, who started smoking weed mixed with cocaine in 2013 until 2016, testified that aftercare programs remained an integral part in the road to recovery for former drug addicts.
She said: "Recovery requires that after rehabilitation one has to attend aftercare programmes or support groups and be linked with skills development programmes. These programmes keep former addicts in constant check against relapses and serve as a platform where they share their experiences and challenges."