Substance Abuse

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, it is key to understand the seriousness of the issue. Substance abuse can have devastating effects on your health, relationships and overall well-being. It can impair your judgment, impact your ability to function and even lead to legal troubles.

Substance abuse is a serious issue characterised by the excessive or improper use of alcohol, prescription drugs and both legal and illegal substances. It differs from addiction, which is a disease leading to compulsive substance use despite harm.

Commonly abused substances include alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, heroin, cocaine, marijuana and tobacco products containing nicotine. Alcohol can lead to injuries, health problems and alcohol disorders with specific guidelines for safe consumption. Prescription drugs, when misused by taking someone else’s medication, taking more than prescribed or using them for non-medical reasons, can be dangerous and addictive. Heroin offers a temporary euphoric feeling followed by physical and mental slowdown and a strong urge for more. Cocaine causes heightened energy, mood swings and long-term cravings. Marijuana, although legalised in some states, can impair judgment and lead to “burned out” feelings. Nicotine in cigarettes and tobacco products can also be addictive.

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Signs of substance use problems include increased tolerance, neglect of interests, changing social circles, self-neglect, isolation, altered eating and sleeping habits, work or family issues, rapid mood shifts and intense cravings for the substance. These signs may indicate a growing problem that requires attention and intervention.

The abuse of alcohol and drugs poses a significant economic burden on South Africa with nearly 20% of adults engaging in substance misuse, particularly alcohol, codeine and cannabis. The annual cost of alcohol abuse alone is estimated to be as high as 10% of GDP, amounting to approximately R37.9 billion, impacting productivity, health and welfare. While South Africa has progressive legislation and a national Drug Master Plan aligned with WHO strategies, inadequate funding and outdated treatment approaches hinder effective implementation. Experts advocate for a multidisciplinary medical approach to addiction, emphasising functional recovery over mere sobriety. Substance abuse and mental illness often co-occur, necessitating comprehensive treatment, yet funding remains a significant challenge. Insufficient recent data on substance abuse further complicates efforts to address this issue effectively.

What Are Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorder, a medical diagnosis, characterises a consistent pattern of substance (drug) usage that results in significant issues or distress for the individual. These problems may manifest as absenteeism from work or school, engaging in risky behaviors like driving under the influence, facing legal consequences related to substance use or the persistence of substance consumption that disrupts personal relationships with friends and family. Recognised as a genuine medical condition affecting the brain, substance use disorder encompasses the misuse of legal substances like alcohol, nicotine or prescription medications, as well as the use of illegal substances such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. Notably, alcohol stands as the most prevalent legal drug associated with substance use disorder.

Are Substance Abuse and A Public Health Condition

Public health, experts have taken a broader view of substance use, considering not only the individual but also the societal, cultural and availability factors at play. Some healthcare professionals prefer using less judgmental language, opting for terms like “substance and alcohol type problems” or “harmful/problematic use” when discussing issues related to alcohol or drug consumption. An example of this approach can be seen in the 2005 policy discussion paper titled “A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada” by the Health Officers Council of British Columbia. This paper embraces a public health model that challenges the oversimplified binary classification of “use” versus “abuse,” acknowledging a spectrum of usage that spans from beneficial use to chronic dependence.

Why Do People Abuse Substances?

The origins of substance use disorder are influenced by various factors. Cultural and societal norms play a role in defining acceptable forms of drug or alcohol use, while legal regulations dictate what constitutes legal or illegal drug usage. The question of what qualifies as normal or socially acceptable substance use continues to be a subject of debate. Substance use disorder appears as a result of a complex interplay of factors, including genetic predisposition, environmental stressors, societal pressures, individual personality traits and underlying psychiatric conditions. However, pinpointing the dominant factor in each case is often challenging and may vary from person to person making it difficult to definitively identify a single primary cause.

What is Prescription Substance Abuse?

Prescription substance misuse has seen a significant increase over recent decades. It is estimated that between 8% to 12% of patients in the United States who are prescribed opioid pain relievers end up developing a substance use disorder. This issue is further exemplified by data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reveals a 16% rise in opioid-related deaths between 2019 and 2020. In 2020, an average of 44 individuals lost their lives each day due to prescription opioid overdoses. The misuse of prescription drugs predominantly falls into three main categories: opioids, central nervous system depressants and stimulants. These encompass a range of specific substances, including amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, codeine, fentanyl and its analogs, methadone, methylphenidate, morphine, oxycodone and various sleep medications.

What is The Progression of Substance Use to Abuse

The progression from casual drug use to drug abuse and addiction is often subtle and hard to recognise with individuals rarely realising when they’ve crossed that line. While the frequency or quantity of drug use alone may not define drug abuse or addiction, they can serve as early indicators of potential issues. When a drug starts to fulfill a significant need in one’s life, such as altering mood, boosting confidence or alleviating pain or anxiety, it can lead to an increased reliance on that substance. If drugs are used as a means to fill emotional voids or cope with life’s challenges, the risk of transitioning from casual use to drug abuse and potential addiction rises. A balanced, healthy life should ideally involve positive experiences and emotional well-being without dependence on drug consumption.

Rehabs and addiction rehab centers are dedicated to helping individuals overcome substance abuse and achieve long-term recovery. These facilities provide a structured and supportive environment where you can receive the specialised care and treatment needed to break free from addiction.

Rehabs in other cities of South Africa.

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    Our team, led by Gareth Carter, offers empathetic and professional support, guiding you through every step of the treatment process. Whether you're in South Africa or abroad, our acceptance of various insurance plans makes quality care accessible, providing a platform for lasting recovery and a healthier future.

    Inpatient Rehab

    Rehab care is a good option if you are at risk of experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms when you try stop a substance. This option would also be recommended if you have experienced recurrent relapses or if you have tried a less-intensive treatment without success.


    If you're committed to your sobriety but cannot take a break from your daily duties for an inpatient program. Outpatient rehab treatment might suit you well if you are looking for a less restricted format for addiction treatment or simply need help with mental health.


    Therapy can be good step towards healing and self-discovery. If you need support without disrupting your routine, therapy offers a flexible solution for anyone wishing to enhance their mental well-being or work through personal issues in a supportive, confidential environment.

    Mental Health

    Are you having persistent feelings of being swamped, sad or have sudden surges of anger or intense emotional outbursts? These are warning signs of unresolved trauma mental health. A simple assesment by a mental health expert could provide valuable insights into your recovery.

    Finding the right rehab close to you is simple with WeDoRecover. Our network includes the finest rehab centers, ensuring personalised, quality care for your recovery needs. Let Gareth Carter and our empathetic team help guide you to a center that feels right for you, offering expert care and support. Start your healing today by choosing a rehab that's not just close to you, but also that truly cares about your loved ones recovery.

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