Address delivered by Minister of Social Development Dr Zola Skweyiya during substance abuse media briefing, Pretoria
20 August 2007
Ladies and gentlemen
Welcome to this briefing on the scourge of substance abuse.
We are joined by the Central Drug Authority, they co-ordinate the work of national and provincial government departments and stakeholders in combating substance and drug abuse. The Chairperson, Mr Pitso Montwedi, will brief you on their work.
The combating of drug and substance abuse is a priority as the scourge has the potential to seriously undermine our development and social cohesion efforts. It is usually in the most vulnerable and in the poorest communities where one finds higher levels of alcohol and drug abuse. This reduces our success rate in extricating the affected from poverty and deprivation. That is why we locate the combating of substance abuse firmly within our anti-poverty and social cohesion interventions.
The nature of the problem
Accurate and current statistical data on the use and abuse of illicit drugs in South Africa are difficult to obtain. However the statistics from the World Drug Report of 2006 as well as recent research from the Medical Research Council are disturbing.
In interpreting these figures it should be remembered that because of the stigma attached to drug use and abuse, there is a tendency for underreporting.
Dagga and alcohol are still the most abused substances. Estimates are that 2,2 million people use dagga or cannabis. In the second category are cocaine, heroin, speed, LSD, hashish, ecstasy, tik and others.
According to the World Drug Report, the approximate number of problem drug users in South Africa is more than 200 000. Close to 9 000 problem drug users were treated at 73 treatment centres from June to December 2006. Considerable abuse of over-the-counter and prescription medicines is also reported. These include pain relievers, tranquilisers, cough mixtures and slimming tablets, as well as solvents such as glue.
The social cost of illicit drug use has not been officially calculated, but up to 12 million family members of drug users face emotional and financial strain. In addition, drug usage has a negative effect on transport safety. A third of heavy duty long distance drivers admit to using drugs to relax and to stay awake. The main drugs used in this instance are alcohol and dagga.
Meanwhile, a conservative estimate of the economic costs to South Africa of alcohol abuse, based on research studies conducted in other countries, is between R8,7 billion and R17,4 billion per year. The social costs are also enormous. About 11 million family members have to endure the turmoil of living with problem or risky drinkers. Risky drinking affects 17,5 million South Africans. Harmful drinking is defined as people drinking first thing in the morning, drinking to intoxication and also imbibing alcohol in-between mealtimes.
It is estimated that alcohol abuse is a factor in nearly half of road crashes. This results in a cost to the country of around 7 000 lives annually.
The national response
Experience has shown that successfully combating the drug problem requires the application of three elements harmoniously, in an integrated and balanced manner. These are supply reduction through law enforcement, demand reduction through prevention strategies amongst others and harm reduction through treatment and social support.
To be effective in our response, we seek to achieve the following:
* to reduce the demand for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
* reduce the social health and economic costs associated with substance abuse in the South African society
* reduce substance abuse-related mortality and morbidity
* improve awareness of the dangers of substance abuse.
All government departments form an integral part of the action against drugs, within the Central Drug Authority and individually. The Central Drug Authority has produced the National Drug Master Plan, in terms of United Nations conventions. The National Drug Master Plan provides for a coherent, comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to the combating of the drug problem in the country.
This approach allows for the involvement of all stakeholders from grassroots and community level to the national level. Provinces and national departments are guided by the Plan to formulate mini-Drug Master Plans to implement prevention, early intervention and treatment.
Provincial Substance Abuse Forums have been established, as well as local drug action committees, which consist of social workers, teachers, justice and police officials and community representatives. While our campaign to combat substance abuse targets all age groups, we prioritise children and the youth, given the fact that the age of experimentation with drugs has dropped to about 10 years.
Our youth programme, called "Ke moja, no thanks I'm fine without drugs" is intended to raise the confidence of young people to enable them to resist peer pressure.
The programme also empowers parents, educators and school governing body members to be able to identify youth with substance abuse problems for early assistance. We run the programme in partnership with the United Nations Office for Crime and Drug Control (UNODC).
Cabinet approved the Prevention of and Treatment of Substance Abuse Bill on the 8th of August this year. It will replace the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Dependency Act of 1992 which has become outdated. Amongst its shortcomings, it focuses primarily on institutional treatment and very little provision is made for prevention, community based and out-patient services.
The proposed legislation promotes more community based services, places greater emphasis on preventative services, and will be more sensitive towards the needs of children. We look forward to vigorous participation by the public and stakeholders when Parliament holds public hearings on the Bill.
I would like to emphasise that every citizen, young and old, has a role to play in the fight against drugs. The abuse of drugs and alcohol is influenced by the degree of tolerance by citizens in a particular country. The promotion of the perception, for example, that the use of dagga is not harmful, or that excessive or binge drinking is acceptable behaviour over weekends undermines all efforts of combating this scourge.
We urge all citizens to treat substance and drug abuse as serious matters. Known drug dealers must be reported to the police. Children and others who abuse substances must be helped to stop the habit and to return their lives to normality. Most importantly, families must confront the problem of denial which perpetuates the scourge. Early intervention is delayed as family members refuse to accept that one of their own could be using or abusing drugs or is an alcoholic.
The new law provides hope as it will substantially improve the manner in which the country responds to drug and substance abuse. We remain optimistic that with co-operation from all communities and sectors, we can begin to stem the tide of substance abuse.
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Summary of the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill (The Bill)
The Department of Social Development has decided to review the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Dependency Act, No 20 of 1992 (the Act) for the following reasons:
* The Act has become outdated.
* The Act is not responsive to current challenges.
* The Act focuses primarily on institutional treatment.
* No accreditation process for programmes and personnel in the field.
* Very little provision is made for prevention, community based and out-patient services.
* Treatment services are not available and accessible to all citizens.
The above mentioned Bill envisages to:
1. provide for a co-ordinated effort to combat substance abuse
2. provide for the conditions for registration of all programmes including those in treatment centres and halfway houses
3. provide for the conditions and procedures for the admission of persons to treatment centres and the release of persons from treatment centres
4. provide for early intervention, treatment and reintegration programmes for vulnerable persons
5. establish a Central Drug Authority whose powers and duties are to monitor and oversee the implementation of the National Drug Master Plan.
The Bill has twelve chapters and is summarised below:
* Chapter 1 deals with the interpretation and objects of the Act.
* Chapter 2 deals with programmes for the combating of substance abuse.
* Chapter 3 deals with the establishment and development of programmes for the prevention of substance abuse, the accreditation of programmes and the monitoring and evaluation of such programmes.
* Chapter 4 deals with the establishment and development of community based services, the types of programmes, the accreditation process, the staffing of services and the monitoring and evaluation of such programmes.
* Chapter 5 makes provision for the establishment and abolishment of centre based and out patient services, the registration and establishment of treatment centres and halfway houses, the monitoring and assessment of these centres, the staffing thereof and the establishment of out patient services.
* Chapter 6 deals with aftercare and reintegration services, the accreditation of these services and the monitoring and evaluation thereof.
* Chapter 7 deals with the admission, transfer and referral procedures to public and private treatment centres.
* Chapter 8 makes provision for behaviour management and disciplinary interventions in public and private treatment centres, halfway houses, out patient and community based treatment facilities.
* Chapter 9 deals with the establishment and functioning of the Central Drug Authority and the supporting structures.
* Chapter 10 deals with the general provisions.
Issued by: Department of Social Development
20 August 2007