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International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking Commemorated

Department of Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.

As the world commemorates the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the Department of Social Development in South Africa has emphasized the end to stigmatization and discrimination.

As part of this year’s theme “People first: stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention.” The department seeks to raise awareness about treating people who use drugs with respect and empathy, providing evidence-based services, offering alternatives to punishment, prioritizing prevention, and promoting compassion.

Drug abuse is a complex problem that affects various aspects of society, including public health, safety, and social welfare. It imposes a significant burden on families and communities, leading to the loss of more than half a million lives annually. Factors like poverty, inequality, and unemployment play a substantial role in the rise of drug use and the emergence of substance use disorders.

Minister Lindiwe Zulu said that the complex relationship between substance abuse and violence further exacerbates the drug problem, including its intersection with Gender-Based Violence (GBV). “South Africa, known for high levels of alcohol consumption, particularly heavy episodic drinking, experiences a strong correlation between alcohol use and GBV. Alcohol consumption can contribute to both mental ill health and an increased vulnerability to abuse. Traumatic stress resulting from GBV can lead to alcohol use as a coping mechanism, perpetuating a cycle of abuse.
Alcohol-related issues and their associated health risks vary widely and have significant impacts on countries worldwide.”

She revealed that harmful alcohol consumption ranks among the top five risk factors for disease, disability, and death. “ Concerning is the impact on young people, as binge drinking among the youth has become prevalent. The tragic incident in June 2022 in Scenery Park, East London, where 21 young lives were lost at the Enyobeni Tavern, highlights the severity of alcohol abuse affecting youth across South Africa.” she added.

She said that to address these challenges, the Department of Social Development has implemented various programs such as it’s flagship initiative, “Ke Moja Drug Awareness Programme,” which focuses on raising awareness, empowering individuals, families, and communities with skills to resist substance abuse.
The program targets children as young as eight years old to educate them about the dangers of drug use and equip them with strategies to handle peer pressure.
In addition, the Siyalulama Outreach Programme, implemented at the community level, targets hotspots of substance abuse and associated social ills.

Through this program, she said, the department collaborates with stakeholders to provide services to those who may face barriers in accessing support.

She also emphasized the integration of substance abuse, victim empowerment, and social crime programs. “By raising awareness among students at higher education institutions, these initiatives aim to combat substance abuse, GBV, and social crime. Recently, the department launched the ASSIST web-based tool, a screening tool for substance abuse severity, at the University of Cape Town. This tool enables individuals to assess themselves without requiring a social worker’s intervention.”

Minister Zulu said that recognizing substance use disorder as a chronic and relapsing condition, the department has established public treatment facilities across all provinces, ensuring access to treatment for all, including disadvantaged individuals. Treatment centers have undergone training on the Universal Treatment Curriculum to enhance their capacity in addressing Substance Use Disorders (SUDs).

“The Department of Social Development conducts an annual Festive Season Campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse during the holiday period when incidents of drinking and driving tend to increase.” she said.

According to Minister Zulu, South Africa’s had a high prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and in response the department plans to visit the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) during the National Anti-Drug Awareness Week.

This visit aims to strengthen partnerships and learn about available programs for children affected by FASD, which results from maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

She added that the fight against drug abuse requires collaboration among multiple stakeholders.

Caleb Tayi
Caleb Tayi
I'm a critical reader and a lover of words. As the ECToday Editor my job is to polish and refine a story or an article, check facts, spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.
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