Pubdate: Wed, 03 Sep 2003
Source: Cape Times (South Africa)
Copyright: 2003 Cape Times.
Author: Jo-Anne Smetherham


Most city drug counselling centres have waiting lists of up to six weeks to 
cope with rocketing addiction.

And while the rising drug problem is also reflected in the increased number 
of child addicts, poorer families are finding treatment increasingly 
difficult to come by.

This was revealed at a meeting of the South African National Council on 
Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) at the Bellville library yesterday.

At the meeting Charles Parry, director of the Medical Research Council's 
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Group, announced the findings of an MRC 
study into the changing demands for treatment in the past seven years.

The study of rehabilitation centres shows that 80% of facilities had 
waiting lists last year. The Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre (CTDCC) 
waiting list was six weeks long in January. The list is now two weeks long.

"If someone comes to us and they are really motivated, to tell them to come 
back in two weeks' time is really disheartening," said Grant Jardine, 
director of CTDCC, which drew up waiting lists for the first time this year.

The South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence 
(Sanca) has waiting lists three to four weeks long, said director David Fourie.

"Quite a few people who really want help are finding it really hard to get 
it. If you are not on medical aid, or earning enough to send your child to 
a private facility, it's very difficult," said Jardine.

"The problem has got worse, but there are fewer slots available for people 
who cannot pay for treatment," said Charles Parry, director of the Alcohol 
and Drug Abuse Research Group.

In the first six months this year, 17 children aged between 10 and 12 years 
sought help for drug addiction in the city.

Jardine said that child addiction was "something that doesn't even stand 
out any more, because it's not uncommon now.

We have made allowances for children in our programmes."

Parry said that the proportion of addicts in treatment who were under 20 
had increased, and had stabilised at between 20% and 25%.

In a city survey last year, Parry said, two-thirds of 12- to 17-year-olds 
who said that they had drunk alcohol also reported that they had binged in 
the previous month.

And a community survey showed last year that 10% of 11- to 17-year-olds in 
Cape Town had been drunk more than 10 times.

Drug education should target children "at a young age", Parry said, and 
treatment opportunities needed to be increased.

In the study, MRC researchers had collected information from 23 treatment 
centres in the city over the past seven years, and examined 15 000 patient 

They found that:

* The proportion of people seeking treatment with alcohol addiction as 
their primary problem had declined from 81% seven years ago to 45% this year.

This was partly because Avalon, which previously treated 55% of people in 
the survey, closed in 1998.

"But this doesn't mean that alcohol is less of a problem." said Parry. "The 
findings reflect not only the closure of Avalon, but also the increased use 
of hard drugs by younger people."

* Small proportions of people in treatment were black - which reflected the 
scarcity of rehabilitation opportunities in townships.

* Most heroin addicts in treatment were under 23 years old.

The proportion of addicts in treatment who used heroin increased from 
around 6% to 8% in the past seven years.

* The proportion of people addicted to dagga and Mandrax had increased, 
with 30% of people in treatment reporting Mandrax to be their first or 
second substance of abuse.

* The proportion of people using club drugs, such as Ecstasy, LSD and 
amphetamines (speed), had also increased.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart