Drug Problems in South Africa

It’s no secret that there are severe drug problems in South Africa.  We’ve all seen it splashed across the newspapers.  Tabloids carry stories about mothers killing their sons who are addicted to “tik” (crystal meth).  Investigative reports on television show how drug use is associated with crime.  Doctors report that many people in our mortuaries and trauma rooms are there as a result of drug use. It’s therefore an unattractive task to begin describing the nature and severity of drug problems in South Africa.  Even school children are being increasingly exposed to illicit substances.  In 2005 half of all high school students surveyed admitted that they had experimented with illegal drugs.

There are very obvious risks to having teenagers experiment with drugs.  They are still developing physically, mentally and emotionally as well as learning new social skills and trying to achieve in academics and sport at school.  The presence of mood and mind-altering substances could negatively impact on the choices they make and their very futures.  If acceptance into their social group at school is conditional on drug use they may struggle to integrate into outside society.  The influence on academic performance hardly needs to be mentioned.

Drug use is associated with memory loss, impaired concentration and a loss of motivation. Teenage drug problems in South Africa are of major concern as it’s recently been reported that using dagga (marijuana /pot) during your adolescents increases your risk of developing schizophrenia as an adult.

Drug problems in South Africa and crime

Some crime is a direct consequence of drug problems in South Africa.  Drug addicts will usually spend a great deal of money supporting their habit and due to the effects of the drugs they will likely struggle to hold down a job.  This places them in the situation where they have to choose between the symptoms of drug-withdrawal or find a way to get money.  This is often through illegal methods – dealing drugs, stealing and fraud are all fairly common ways that addicts support their habit.

The concept of specialised drug courts has been mooted as a way to help reduce the burden on the criminal courts and to divert addicts to treatment rather than jail.  Unfortunately South Africa does not appear to have the infrastructure required to support such courts and the legal issues arising from drug problems in South Africa will continue to be dealt with in our criminal courts.
Health concerns and drug problems in South Africa

Drug overdose is not the only way that fatality is associated with drug problems in South Africa.  Some accidents such as car crashes may have been caused by drug use but the cause of death is not reported as “drug addiction”.  Similarly murders and suicides related to drug use may sometimes be related to addiction.

Chronic drug use results in poor health.  The precise symptoms will differ between the various substances used, the length of time and the physical condition of the addict.  The classical symptoms include weight loss, dental problems (e.g.: loss of teeth), skin problems, malnutrition, poor hygiene standards and a general loss of immune system function.  Drug problems in South Africa are therefore associated with a higher burden being placed on healthcare systems.

The spread of drug problems in South Africa

There is not really any particular demographic that is immune from drug problems in South Africa.  People living in wealthy areas will just use more expensive substances (e.g.: cocaine) as compared to people living in poor areas.  In fact, people of all ages, races, sexes, religions and socioeconomic status are affected by addiction.

Violence is commonly linked with drug use.  Some substances will induce an aggressive attitude in the abuser, especially when they are feeling the symptoms of withdrawal.  This can spill over into spousal abuse and many people arrested for family disputes are found to be under the influence of a substance.  Thus drug problems in South Africa enter into our homes and are not just isolated to the streets.  They pervade all levels of society and our personal lives.

If you have a drug problem and would like to find a new way of living life please contact one of our addiction counsellors for specialist advice on how to get into a drug addiction rehab and learn to live a life free from the influence of drug problems.

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