|TARGET #||DESCRIPTION||SA STATUS
(PER 2019 COUNTRY REPORT)
|3.5||Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and the harmful use of alcohol||Harmful use of alcohol:
7,27 litres per capita (2017)
The harmful use of alcohol resulted in 3 million deaths (5,3% of all deaths) worldwide in 2016
As several international and domestic studies show clear linkages between alcohol abuse and gender-based violence, we need to urgently re-examine the role alcohol abuse plays in destroying our society’s health and wellbeing. Gender-based violence contributes heavily to gender inequality and has been on the rise. President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his address on 17 June 2020, said that gender-based violence in South Africa should be considered a second pandemic – as serious as coronavirus.
There is an opportunity to provide greater support to people with drinking and other substance abuse problems through counselling, support groups, rehabilitation and treatment programmes. There is a need to actively encourage responsible drinking and responsible ‘living’, especially among young people. This really is a case where prevention is possible.
According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, tik and heroin are some of the most frequently used substances in South Africa. ‘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,’ says Marna Acker, an occupational therapist at Akeso Clinic Nelspruit. ‘South Africa has no regular representative surveys on substance abuse, which makes it difficult to understand the extent of the problem. The stats are available only for people admitted for treatment. But we do know that the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (SACENDU) project, which is an alcohol and other drug (AOD) sentinel surveillance system and is operational in nine provinces, shows that there was an increase in the number of people admitted for treatment – from 8 787 in 2016 to 10 047 in 2017, across 80 centres.’
Netcare provides the following ‘fact box’ for South Africa:
- It is estimated that up to 60% of crimes committed involve the use of substances.
- The rate of foetal alcohol syndrome in South Africa is five times that of the US.
- 80% of male youth deaths are alcohol related.
- Drug consumption in South Africa is estimated to be twice the world norm.
- According to the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (SACENDU), cannabis and alcohol are the substances most likely to be abused.
- Males over the age of 20 are the biggest abusers of alcohol.
- Male youths are the main abusers of cannabis.
In 2016, the chairperson of the South African Medical Association, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, said South Africa has the highest incidence of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world. The lives of many children are also negatively affected by substance abuse. These are no longer problems we can avoid; they need to be addressed.
Only effective actions that are based collaborative commitments will help us to achieve this SDG 3 target.
Substance abuse is an illness from which all stigma needs to be removed, as was the case with HIV/AIDS. It is often the end result of a number of psycho-social issues that have built up in a person’s life and which are best addressed by appropriate interventions at certain points in time. Creating supportive environments along with these consistent interventions can go a long way to addressing this social illness. Open and supportive dialogue where people feel they can trust and be helped has been shown to assist in healing the root cause of the problem. Helping people to become valued members of their communities where they are compensated and rewarded for using their unique gifts and talents to contribute in meaningful and constructive ways may be a game changer.
On 25 June 2020, Minister Lindiwe Zulu launched the National Drug Master Plan (2019−2024) which has been cited as ‘the blueprint for combating the scourge of alcohol and substance abuse which has reached epidemic proportions in South Africa’. The overarching goal of the plan is to prevent drug use before it starts, early intervention to ensure substance users receive treatment and rehabilitation services, and reducing the demand for illicit drugs. For further information, the plan can be accessed here.
Do you have any valuable tips and advice on how to strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse in South Africa? Or are you actively involved in helping South Africa to achieve this SDG 3 target? We would value your input and feedback. Please leave your comments below.