More blacks seek drug help

2012-04-16 00:00

MORE young black people are seeking help for substance abuse in KwaZulu-Natal, according to research released by the Human Science Research Council (HSRC).

Mohammed Yacoob Vawda of the HSRC said increasing numbers of blacks were becoming aware of and accessing treatment facilities.

Vawda said: “Treatment differs for each individual. They get treated to according to their specific needs.”

The HSRC research is based on results released by the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (Sacendu), which was initiated in 1996.

Sacendu collects alcohol and other drug use surveillance data in KZN, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.

It monitors trends and consequences of substance abuse on a six-month basis, using information obtained from specialist treatment centres.

“The reason why the current increase in black people accessing treatment is not a surprise is based on the stigma as well as cultural and negative beliefs regarding treatment, which reduced access in the past,” Vawda said.

An article that shows research over the past three years reveals that 3 123 youths in KZN were seeking treatment in 2008, 2 815 in 2009 and 1 849 in 2010.

“Although the proportion of black youths seeking treatment has increased over the three-year period, the overall number of people seeking treatment has decreased,” Vawda added.

The number of black people receiving treatment for substance abuse increased significantly over the three-year period, from 46% from July to December in 2008, to 58% between July and December in 2010.

“The extent of drug abuse remains a concern,” Vawda said. “A big concern comes from people aged between 15 and 25, who have the highest rates of treatment of substance abuse in comparison to all other age groups.”

Umangh Harkhu of the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) in Pietermaritzburg said the council had recorded a slight increase in people seeking help for substance abuse.

Harkhu said: “Peer pressure is the most common reason why young people start using drugs and alcohol. Twenty-five percent of patients treated at our clinic are between the ages of 14 and 17, while 16% are between 18 and 25.

“Some children come to the clinic with their parents and others are referred to us by their school principals. Teachers usually see some sort of changed behaviour in the children or sometimes they are found to be in possession of drugs and are then referred to us for treatment.

“There is a lot of effort made in order to create awareness about the harm associated with drugs and alcohol abuse, especially when it comes to young people. We work in schools to create awareness around these issues. We teach children about making better decisions and how to seek help if needed,” Harkhu said.

According to the HSRC, black people seeking treatment have the highest rates of alcohol and cannabis abuse, while Indians and coloureds have the highest rates of abuse for crack and cocaine. The most common substances of abuse among whites are cannabis, alcohol and crack and cocaine.

Cannabis abuse is most common (51%) among the 10- to 19-year age group, followed by alcohol (15%) and heroin (eight percent). Among 20- to 24-year-olds, alcohol (27%) and cannabis (32%) abuse rates are common.

Drug abuse among young people is not specific to any population group.

• Siyatheba.Ben@media24.com

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