Substance Dependency Awareness 2019

Is South Africa losing the fight against substance abuse?

Without enough funding, SA cannot tackle its substance abuse problem effectively. With the rise in illicit drugs, South Africa appears to be losing the war on substance abuse.

Despite South Africa’s progressive legislation on the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, a lack of funding has hampered its implementation, causing a multi-billion-rand dent in the country’s economy every year.

The increased use of illicit drugs suggests South Africa is losing the war on substance abuse.



Addiction in The Workplace

Drug and alcohol addiction affect every aspect of a person’s life, including their work. Employers can play a meaningful role in helping employees prevent and deal with addiction in the workplace. Although an employee’s personal life doesn’t fall within the responsibilities of an employer, individuals who are suffering from addiction quite often carry addiction-related side effects with them into the workplace.

These side effects may include, but is not limited to an increase in absenteeism, theft, injuries and loss of productivity, which leads to unnecessary costs to the employer. Higher than usual staff turn-over rates, as a direct cause of these behaviours, lead to even more costs when the employer is forced to recruit and train new staff.

Employees Less Effective

It is a known fact that employees who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol struggle to focus, are less effective at completing tasks and are poor decision makers. Constant preoccupation with using and/or obtaining their substance of choice negatively affect job performance; a less than desired outcome for any employer that pays a good salary for a value adding outcome.

Apart from the personal implication of such substance abuse, it could also have a negative impact on co-workers, especially the ones that work close to them on a regular basis. Unacceptable behaviour, such as tardiness and sleeping on the job put additional pressure on co-workers in the form of heavier workloads, which often lead to unnecessary conflict within the team. In extreme cases, these substances could even make them unmanageable to their supervisors and cause health problems that can add additional stress on the rest of the team as a result of them taking more sick leave.


Illegal Behaviours at Work

Another real problem that employers potentially face is illegal activities in the workplace, such as selling drugs to other employees, bribery and fraud. If not monitored and acted upon in a very decisive way, it could lead to more serious behaviours and activities, exposing the employer to unprecedented risk. It could even ruin a company’s reputation.


Employee Wellness Programme

Companies can address substance abuse in their employee population by implementing substance abuse policies and establishing Employee Wellness Programme (EWP). Regular alcohol and drug testing at work can also assist with identifying employees who are struggling. Substance abuse policies need to include full details of procedures to be followed when doing testing, outlined as a step-by-step process. Education is extremely important in the prevention and intervention of addiction in the workplace, as it aids in reducing the stigma and increasing the likelihood that employees will ask for help.

Companies can assist their personnel by providing the necessary access they need to address their addiction and offer them support on their road to recovery. Employers who offer appropriate interventions and treatment for addicted employees will benefit by reduced absenteeism and increased productivity, as well as a safer workplace.  These risk averting steps will ensure that the personal life of the employee’s will not affect the work environment, co-workers and the company’s customers.



How to help someone with a drug problem

Caring for someone with a drug problem can be very stressful. You may feel anxious, depressed or ashamed because of their drug use. But remember, you're not alone. There is support available for you and the person you care for.

How can I tell if someone's using drugs?

You might not realise for a while that the person is using drugs. There's no sure way to tell, but some clues include:

·         burnt foil, which may have been used for smoking heroin

·         tiny pieces of cling wrap, paper or card that have been used to wrap drugs

·         hand-rolled cigarettes with filters made from cardboard

·         spoons and syringes

·         small sealable plastic bags used to store drugs

·         pipes, plastic bottles or drinks cans that have been pierced or tampered with


Drugs can cause changes in people's physical appearance, including:

·         sudden weight loss or gain

·         sniffing or a runny nose

·         small pupils

·         red, glassy or bloodshot eyes

·         frequent nosebleeds

·         shaking

·         slurred speech


Changes in behaviour can also be a sign that someone is using drugs. These could include:

·         seeming withdrawn or inactive

·         extreme changes in mood or behaviour

·         increased spending or loss of possessions

·         changes in sleeping patterns

·         not worrying about personal grooming

·         losing interest in sports or hobbies

·         neglecting responsibilities

·         appearing agitated or restless

Many of these clues are caused by other things. It's normal for teenagers, especially, to go through emotional changes.

It's important to talk honestly to the person rather than making assumptions. It will help if you get your facts right.


Finding out that someone's using drugs

There are different reasons why people use drugs. If someone you care about uses drugs, it can be very hard to understand why they are doing this. However, they are responsible for their own behaviour and it's their decision to use drugs. They are also responsible for deciding whether to stop using drugs.


Helping the person you care for

Help is available for people with a drug problem. However, it's important to realise that your friend or family member will only seek help when they're ready.

The main way to access these services and support is by talking to a doctor. Alternatively, the person you care for can contact their nearest drug addiction service.


How you can help them

Even when they know they have a drug problem; it can be difficult for people to change. You may need to be patient. If the person isn’t ready to seek help, you can still support them by trying to minimise the impact that their drug use has on them and others around them.

As a start, you may be able to help by letting them know about the support that's available to them. If they choose to seek help for their drug use, you can support them by being understanding about how they're feeling, while encouraging them in the changes they've chosen to make.

For many people, taking action to deal with their drug use is just the start, and maintaining the changes they've made may be the most difficult part. Recognising situations that could trigger their drug use, and trying to avoid these, could help. If the person you care for does lapse back into drug use, you can encourage them to seek help, for example by keeping in contact with local support services.

If the person you care for continues to use drugs despite the support you provide, this can be very frustrating and demoralising. Remember, the decision to use drugs is their responsibility, not yours.



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