Pubdate: Fri, 23 Jun 2006
Source: Pretoria News, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2006 The Pretoria News
Author: Jean Benjamin


On Monday South Africa will join the world in highlighting the
socio-economic challenges posed by the abuse of substances on
International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

South Africa continues to experience increased levels of substance
abuse, and the age of first experimentation with substances has
dropped to between nine and 10 years.

Appropriately, the theme for this year is "Children and Drugs", with
the slogan "Drugs are not child's play".

Several activities will take place to promote awareness and the main
event is in Umbumbulu in Durban on June 29.

In particular, children and the youth are targeted as young people are
at a vulnerable age where they are susceptible to all kinds of pressures.

The campaign seeks to overcome pressure from friends, neighbours,
irresponsible adults and also advertising and marketing. The
substances are presented to the youth as providing entry into
glamorous or "cool" lifestyles.

It is estimated that the annual economic costs associated with alcohol
abuse could be between 0,5% and 1,9% of the country's Gross Domestic

This translates to about R8,7-billion a year, and with the addition of
drugs, a conservative figure is about R10-billion a year.

South Africa is a key player in the drug trade because it produces
cannabis (dagga) and Mandrax.

The latest research findings of the South African Community
Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (Sacendu) highlight the following:

- - Alcohol continues to be the most dominant substance of abuse,
placing a major burden on society;

- - The use of dagga and Mandrax (methaqualine) alone, or in
combination, continues to be high and appears to be increasing;

- - Indicators for cocaine are mixed, with police seizures having
increased considerably. But the treatment demand has stabilised;

- - Treatment and police indicators continue to identify heroin as being
primarily a problem in Gauteng and Cape Town; and

- - More and more patients younger than 20 are going for

The Sacendu data is just a sample of the national situation, but it
provides an understanding of the nature and scope of the substance
abuse problem.

Substance abuse has far-reaching implications in our society.

The scourge is linked to the destruction of families, criminal
behaviour, HIV/Aids infection, poverty, unemployment, car accidents
and other forms of trauma and violence, as well as loss of
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