Drug abuse in South Africa is nothing new but the problem is on the  rise. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 15% of South Africa’s population have a drug problem. This high level of drug abuse costs South Africa over R20-billion a year. These statistics have earned the country the dubious reputation of being one of the drug capitals of the world.

Dr. David Bayever from the Central Drug Authority (CDA) said “The drug problem in South Africa remains very serious with drug usage being twice the world norm in many cases…and we are only dealing with what we know about.”

The 26th June is National Substance Abuse Awareness Day and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) counsellors in partnership with the Department of Social Development will be there to answer the  National Substance Abuse Helpline (0800 12 13 14) and help South Africans in need.

The 24 hour helpline has been running for the last 5 years and provides free telephonic counselling, information and referrals to resources nationwide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

There is also a very active SMS line also open 24 hours for those who don’t have enough money or airtime to call the helpline. They can SMS 32312 and a counsellor will call them back.

“The majority of calls to the helpline are from families and loved ones desperate for help for their loved one using drugs or alcohol. So many people don’t know what help is available, and through the helpline, we can refer them to hospitals, rehabs, social workers, psychologists  and support groups throughout the country” says SADAG Projects Manager Naazia Ismail.

Families don’t always have the money for private rehabs, medication or treatment programmes, and especially since there is little or no substance abuse support services in rural disadvantaged areas, SADAG has trained over 100 dedicated Substance Abuse Support Group Leaders to run free support groups in all 9 provinces in SA.

Lack of access to specialist clinics

The reality is that many South Africans don’t have access to treatment or specialist clinics, but through these groups, addicts and their family members have access to information, support and help. In commemoration of the International Substance Abuse Prevention Day, these dedicated Support Group Leaders will be hosting 19 FREE Substance Abuse community talks across the country, from Bushbuckridge to Umtata, Port Elizabeth to Kimberley, Eldorado Park to Nelspruit and Soweto, these groups will share info, resources & support.

If you would like more info about support groups in your area, please call 0800 12 13 14 or sms 32312.

Lazarus from Atteridgeville who started his own Free Support Groups for Nyaope addicts in his community. “I decided to start a support group so people in the community with a substance abuse problem could have a safe place to openly talk about their addiction without being judged.” A similar situation on youth addiction exists in Katlehong. “There are many teenagers in my community who are addicted to Nyaope”, says Shadrack. “The support group helps them to know that there is a way out of addiction.”

Join live Facebook chats for advice

Another way that SADAG is trying to reach as many people as possible who are affected by substance abuse issues and who don’t have access to experts or help is by hosting  two free one-hour LIVE chats on Facebook. The chats will be held on SADAG’s Facebook Page, on the 26th June at 1pm with Psychologists Mich Robb and Substance Abuse Counsellor Lebo Kgabodiso, then again from 7pm – 8pm with Support Group Leader Lorraine Crosson and Editor of Addict Magazine, Cindy Le Grange.

They will be helping family members and parents, identify possible symptoms of substance abuse, tips on how to talk to your loved one about addiction, and where to get help and treatment. To log in, go to our Facebook Page “The South African Depression and Anxiety Group.” If you can’t participate during the chat but still have a question to ask, send us an SMS with your question and the word “Facebook” to 31393.

It’s often hard for sufferers and their loved ones to discuss substance abuse issues or get support. “Fear, shame, and guilt, keep many people suffering in silence in the vicious cycle of substance abuse”, says Ismail . Relapse is high and addicts feels more and more hopeless with each relapse. “Speaking to a counsellor who can give you real options of help and support, gives people the hope that they too can take back control of their lives. ”