Treatment for substance abusers neglected in the province

Karen de Kock, MPL

DA Northern Cape Provincial spokesperson of Social Development

Substance abuse levels amongst the youth of the Northern Cape have increased. Even Premier Sylvia Lucas recently admitted that our youths are drowning in alcohol. Yet, in spite of this, there is only sufficient bed space to treat fifteen addicts at a time in the Northern Cape. The DA is raising this issue against the backdrop of both “SANCA Drug Awareness Day” and the “International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking” being celebrated next week.

Last year, the Tsantsabane Youth Survey revealed that alcohol abuse was an overwhelming challenge in the Postmasburg area, with three out of four young people affected by alcohol abuse. SANCA further revealed that substance abuse amongst the youth of the Northern Cape had reached epidemic levels. At the same time, the results of a national survey conducted in 2008, resurfaced. The findings indicated that, at the time, the Northern Cape had the highest prevalence of learners who used dagga before the age of 13 years, and the highest prevalence of learners who had used club drugs and tik. These statistics are shocking and the DA can only surmise that the problem has escalated since then.

While the provincial department of social development’s allocation for substance abuse has increased substantially since the previous financial year, only 913 out of the 43 461 people being targeted by the department, will receive an actual service in terms of treatment, rehabilitation and after care. Also, as mentioned above, only 15 addicts will be able to receive in-house rehabilitation at a time. All the rest will merely be reached through prevention programs and essentially campaigns, which will have minimal impact on the thousands of youths already caught up in the clutches of substance abuse.

In other words, when calculating the allocation per individual, it appears that only 2,1 percent of the budget for the department’s substance abuse programme is to be spent on treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare. At the same time, a whopping 97% is to be spent on prevention campaigns that are not making the required impact.

The DA is of the view that the department would have done better to invest the millions, currently being spent year-in and year-out on ineffective prevention programmes and campaigns, on public-private-partnerships to establish substance abuse treatment centres across the province. After the DA came to power in the Western Cape, they increased the number of addiction treatment centres from seven in 2008, to 24 across the province today. The DA would do the same for the Northern Cape. After all, drug and alcohol abuse are the main drivers of risky behaviour and violent crime, which are threatening the future of too many of our young people.

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