Snapshot of the issue

Overall, the range of drugs abused and the burden of drug abuse is greater in the Western Cape than the other provinces of South Africa (MRC South Africa, 2004).

* In the Western Cape the primary drug of abuse is Methamphetamine (MA or 'Tik'). In Cape Town it has now emerged as the main substance of abuse among both young and older patients in treatment. Among Patients under 20 years almost three-quarters have MA as a primary or secondary substance of abuse.

* A quarter of patients seeking treatment in the Western Cape are there due to Alcohol abuse. In comparison to other provinces, a greater proportion of young persons in the province started drinking before the age of 13.

* There has been a particularly large increase in the proportion of younger patients seeking treatment for cannabis-related problems in the Western Cape. Roughly one in six Grade 11 male students have consumed dagga in the past month.

* Over time there has also been a dramatic increase in treatment admissions for heroin as a primary drug of abuse in the Western Cape. It is misconceived as a 'cleaner' drug than Tik and therefore an used as an alternative.

* Club drugs such as Ecstasy and LSD are abused much more in the Western Cape than in the other provinces.

* The abuse of over-the-counter and prescription medicines, inhalants/solvents and Methcathinone are continuing to be an issue within the Western Cape (and rest of South Africa).

* Poly-substance abuse remains high in the Western Cape, with 48% of patients indicating more than one substance of abuse.

The effect of drugs on our city

* Almost 6 out of every 10 arrestees in Cape Town in 2000 tested positive for an illegal drug, with levels being particularly high for crimes such as housebreaking (66%). Arrestees who tested positive for drugs were significantly more likely to have had a prior arrest than drug negative arrestees.

* One in two non-natural deaths in Cape Town in 2003 had alcohol levels >0.05g/100ml.

* More than one in three patients seen at trauma units in Cape Town in 2001 had alcohol levels >0,05g/100ml, and over 4 out of every 10 trauma patients tested positive for an illicit drug.

* Learners in the Western Cape exceed the national average in several areas of substance abuse risk behaviour e.g. past month binge drinking, past month dagga use, and lifetime (ever) use of Mandrax and club drugs.

* Drug and alcohol abuse are closely linked to high-risk behaviour, serious societal issues and health problems. It's destructive force claims lives, promotes crime and elicits sexual promiscuity (contributing to the HIV epidemic). It is evident that the abuse not only affects the individual abusing the substance, but also those close to them. Associated with the abuse are issues such as a loss of income and the breaking down of families and their moral structure. Sadly, infants & children are often worst affected with disorders such as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, and other corresponding Neurological and Psychological disorders.

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