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Majority of people treated for substance abuse in Tshwane are black men and unemployed

A person using drugs

A symposium on substance abuse in the City of Tshwane has found that the number of people seeking treatment has considerably increased. File Picture: Cindy Waxa

Published Nov 17, 2021


Pretoria – Cannabis and heroin, both at 28%, have been found to be the primary substances used by people seeking treatment for substance abuse across Tshwane from January to June, with figures also showing that more people are turning up for treatment.

The statistics of people seeking treatment for substance abuse also show that the group is characterised largely by black men, (86%), while 63% were people younger than 30 years, with most of them unemployed.

The University of Pretoria’s Community Oriented Substance Use Programme (COSUP), together with the Drug and Substance Abuse (DSA) Unit at the City of Tshwane and the South African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD), hosted a virtual research symposium focusing on the work done in and around substance use in the City of Tshwane.

According to the treatment demand and harm reduction service data presented by Dr Siphokazi Dada from the SA Medical Research Council’s South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use at the symposium, the number of people who sought treatment saw a significant increase from January to June of 2021.

The number for people who sought treatment between January and June increased to 5 969 from 4 912 of the previous period from June to December 2020. Black males were 86% of this group, and 63% of them were younger than 30 years, with most of them unemployed.”

These young people were mostly referred to treatment by family and the state, with these entities paying for treatment.

According to the 2021 World Drug Report by the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), it was estimated that in 2018, approximately 269 million people globally had used a drug at least once in the previous year. This is expected to rise to 299 million people by 2030.

Of the estimated 269 million people, approximately 60 million (8.4%) were located in Africa. With the most population growth as well as drug use expected to occur here, the number of people who use drugs is projected to increase by 38% by 2030.

The symposium also heard that the people who identify alcohol as their primary substance of use, who present for treatment, increase with age.

“Most people who misuse alcohol often seek help when they have reached alcohol dependence stage, which is much later in life,” said Dr Dada.

For the older generation, there was an uptick in the number of people who identified alcohol as their primary substance of use, at 28% of the 884 of those between the ages of 36 and 55 years. For this age group, this was closely followed by heroin at 27%, cannabis at 14%, methamphetamine at 12%, and CAT at six percent.

There were only 85 people over the age of 55 who presented for treatment during the period of January to June 2021, and 74% of them identified alcohol as their primary substance of use.

The majority of clients from Gauteng received substance use treatment at outpatient services (63%), with 37% receiving treatment at inpatient services for the period of January to June 2021. Of the 5 969 people who presented for treatment, 86% of these patients had never accessed treatment before, with 14% as repeat patients.

The percentage of those presenting for treatment that had been tested for HIV in the previous 12 months was 57%, with at least eight percent refusing to answer this question.