Substance Abuse

A frightening problem

August 10, 2013  |  By Inganathi Ndzule, South Africa

Substance Abuse

Photo : Nicole Dee/

Alcohol results in almost 2.5 million deaths each year. If that doesn’t scare you, 320 thousand young people between the age of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes. Still not shocked? Consider the very large number of 15.3 million, because that’s the amount of people who have drug use problems. These were the frightening statics released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and it’s evident that a large amount of South Africans are substance abusers – impacting their health, home life, family life and their community. 

‘Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction,’ stated William S. Burroughs in his novel Naked Lunch.  Yes, substance abuse takes many forms and it is often the result of factors such an unstable home environment, poor social skills, peer pressure etc. And after speaking with numerous people, 75% stated that substance abuse is increasing and affecting their lives.

Signs and troubles
According to eMedicineHealth, ‘early recognition [of drug use] increases chances for successful treatment’ and such signs can be:

  • Violent behaviour
  • Obvious change in mood or behaviour
  • Poor memory
  • Disappearing money or valuables
  • Physical changes (for example, red eyes and slurred speech)
  • Lying
  • Avoiding friends or family in order to get drunk or high
  • Having ‘blackouts’
  • Always talking about drinking or using other drugs
  • Getting in trouble with the law


Affecting more than just the addict
These of course are just some of the many signs. But often, after destroying friendships and families, many addicts find themselves on the streets as people around them are scared of their behaviour. And due to their extreme cravings, addicts are often unable to pay for their drugs. This often results in bloody fights, threats and crimes as drug dealers will not take no for an answer and an addict will do anything for their fix.

 However, taking drugs isn’t always a choice. Often at places like parties and clubs, with the motive to rape or kidnap etc, people spike other people’s drinks. ‘It’s a bad sign of immaturity,’ said a local student Nikelwa Mqwabalala. Sadly this is always a risk and after calling them ‘cowards’, nurse Avril Hermanus explained that in order to protect yourself against this you ‘need to be vigilant and make sure you have your drink with you’.

And with all the other trouble substance abuse causes, many interviewees felt that drug dealers should receive serious punishment because they feel that the problem begins with dealers exposing drugs in vulnerable communities. ‘There needs to more awareness campaigns and harsher consequences for users [addicts],’ said Mqwabalala. However, interestingly enough, other interviewees said that people should choose not to buy it. The main question though, is how do we treat substance abuse?

‘Addicts need to admit that they have a problem and go to rehab,’ said Hermanus. Other interviewees similarly suggested daily programmes or workshops and seeking help from local clinics or NGOs such as FAMSA. They also suggested that children need to be educated from a young age about the bad effects of substance abuse. However there is always hope and perhaps we could learn from other’s mistakes.

‘Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem. They’re no good at all.’ – Kurt Cobain.



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