Break the stigma of substance abuse

Pretoria - Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, has called for closer cooperation between communities, local government and law enforcement agents to win the fight against drug abuse.

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, MEC Mayathula-Khoza said.

The MEC was speaking at the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking event held on Monday at Mabopane Indoor Facility, Pretoria.

The event was attended by recovering addicts including families in partnership with the City of Tshwane, supporting Non-Profit Organisations, social workers, members of the Local Drug Action Committees (LDACs), as well as community development workers.

The MEC 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, she said

Artist and social activist, Kabelo Mabalane, urged government to give the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking the same impetus as World Aids Day, which is commemorated on 1 December.

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.

Mabalane also 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 nine 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.

Susana Ncala, who started smoking weed mixed with cocaine from 2013 until 2016, said that aftercare programs remains an integral part in the road to recovery for former drug addicts.

Recovery requires that after rehabilitation one has to attend aftercare programs or support groups and be linked with skills development programs. These programs keep former addicts in constant check against relapses and serve as a platform where they share their experiences and challenges, 35�year-old Ncala said.

Tshwane is one of the hardest hit substance abuse areas, which reached a crisis point earlier this year, where nyaope users exchanged blood through a syringe to share their high to cut costs, a new trend called 'Bluetooth'.

In a bid to help curb the escalating scourge of alcohol and drug abuse among youths, an aftercare program was established by the department to assist those in recovery to maintain sobriety and to lead a drug free life.

During 2016/2017, a total of 22 882 service users in Gauteng accessed the treatment programs and only 6 066 participated in aftercare programs.

According to the South African Revenue Service, the known direct cost of drug abuse in 2005 was roughly R1 billion. The social cost of illicit drug use calculated using international data was approximately R1.4 billion annually.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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