Breaking the chain of substance abuse

Friday, March 11, 2022

The Department of Social Development (DSD) is implementing intervention programmes to combat substance abuse, particularly among youth.

Speaking at a webinar on the prevention of substance abuse on Friday, DSD Social Work Policy Manager, Faith Namathe, said the age of experimentation is decreasing, and the kind of drugs taken by teenagers are more addictive.

“Alcohol and drug use amongst children and adolescents are cause for concern. We need to implement evidence-based programmes and diversion programmes should be made more available to young people who are involved in criminal activities due to dependence on drugs.”

Namathe said prevention, early intervention, treatment and reintegration are among the key components to combatting substance abuse.

Through the ‘Ke Moja’ campaign, which targets preschool learners and learners in lower primary school, children are taught basic information about drugs and life skills, and this is done through the use of puppets.

“The prevention programme also includes peer educators, who empower youth to take the lead against drug abuse in schools and communities.

“A holiday programme is run during school holidays and equips participants with information on drugs, the dangers of addiction, problem solving, crime prevention strategies and how to cope with peer pressure,” Namathe said.

Early intervention seeks to interrupt the progression of substance abuse to higher levels of dependence, as well as identifying risky behaviour.

The programme also enables affected persons to recognise warning signs of substance abuse, and sensitise users and families about substance abuse and other social ills.

It provides for skills development and socio-therapeutic interventions, as well as referral for treatment.

In addition, treatment seeks to reduce negative health and social consequences associated with drug abuse. Treatment is provided to the users, including inpatient and outpatient, which they access through voluntary and involuntary admission.


The reintegration and aftercare programme ensures the integration of people who have undergone treatment, and equips service users with additional skills to maintain their treatment gains, sobriety, as well as avoiding relapses.

Through the programme, service users are encouraged to participate in support groups and they are linked with resources for their further development and well-being.

Namathe emphasised that the issue of rehabilitation is very important to help a person from relapsing, which is part of the healing process.

“People who use drugs deserve respect and we must guide against the language we use when dealing with people who suffer from substance abuse. We must ensure that our services are available and accessible to service users.

“It is [also] important to involve parents so that they can be ambassadors in their homes and emphasise the message. Substance abuse is a family disease, because if one member is addicted, everyone in the family becomes affected,” Namathe said.

Reduction strategies 

Katlego Boshielo, from the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) in Pretoria ,said it is impossible to speak about any township in the country without mentioning drugs and substance abuse.

SANCA’s programmes are embedded on demand reduction and harm reduction strategies to help combat drug and substance abuse.

“With substance abuse awareness and prevention campaigns, we are able to preserve the families of people affected by substance abuse and those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs. This helps create education and awareness raising to community members on the harmful effects of alcohol and illicit drugs,” Boshielo said.

She said the council’s primary aim is to provide an excellent service to all communities, groups and individuals with respect to prevention and treatment of substance/chemical dependence.

“Our secondary aim is to promote a healthy manner of life to our patients by means of purposeful and effective treatment programmes. This is done by assisting the patients to become fully functional people and realise their self-worth,” Boshielo said.

If you are struggling with substance abuse and need help, contact the 24-hour substance abuse helpline 0800 12  1314 or SMS to 32312. –

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