- Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January 2016 17:52
South Africa is increasingly becoming involved in major international drug trafficking networks.
While no official prevalence figures exist for drug use, SADAG estimates that 15% of South Africans have a drug problem. Cannabis and Mandrax are seen as the most commonly used illicit drugs. South Africa currently accounts for the second largest quantity of cannabis seized anywhere in the world; it is surpassed only by Mexico. Estimates vary, but it is believed that between 70 and 80% of the world’s consumption of the depressant Mandrax (methaqualone) occurs within South Africa’s borders.
The use of heroin, cocaine and ecstasy has also increased significantly since the mid-1990s and recent evidence indicated that the injecting of heroin is increasing in South Africa even among the poor living in townships. The use of “club-drugs”, such as ecstasy and LSD, was also growing dramatically among some sections of the community.
The threat of an economic recession has not had much impact on drug use. Users merely change their drug of choice or there may be an increase in crime to sustain their habits.
What we can do
The National Drug Master Plan (2013-2017), approved by Cabinet on 26 June 2013 to assist in the fight against substance abuse, is to be implemented with immediate effect by the Central Drug Authority (CDA).
The CDA stresses that the country needs to change its approach to dealing with the issue as social structures continue to change. A three-tiered approach strategy, which involves demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction is needed.
Tackling organised crime is key to the fight in combating the drug problem. Organised crime, as the root of the drug problem, fuels corruption and political instability. It empties communities of its wealth, impedes development and chases away foreign investment. African narcotics cartels are a threat as they traffic drugs from Asia and Latin America.
As members of society we have a moral duty to work for an end to organised crime. We need to assist law enforcing agencies in this effort and we need to constantly remind those in positions of power and leadership of their responsibility in this regard, especially where they are our elected representatives.
Our society is changing and this makes us more vulnerable. For example, nearly a fifth of South African children live in orphan-headed households, according to Statistics SA (StatsSA) and there are more single mothers raising children in the country at present than ever before.
We should take a close look at our support systems within society. Are we doing enough to support those who are vulnerable and at risk of becoming drug addicts? The consequences of not becoming involved are huge.
We should educate ourselves on drugs and the symptoms of drug use. The sooner we intervene, the better the chance of preventing a user becoming an addict. The heartache and tragedy of drug addiction have a devastating effect on families, ask any family member of a drug addict.
Drug use leads to poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of an education and despair. Let’s take hands and fight this threat to our society with all our might.
Revised by M Collins