‘We are very worried by the high rate of substance abuse in the Winterveld area which is affecting mainly young people between the ages of six and15 years of age,’ said Mr Oupa Thebe, chairperson of the Mabopane, Winterveld and Garankuwa Local Drug Action Committee (MAWIGA LDAC).
According to Sister Nkele Ratlhogo, a professional nurse from the Department of Health and also the deputy chairperson of MAWIGA LDAC, they are using a different campaig approach by engaging directly with the community in order to educate them on how to refer cases of drug abuse to the relevant services, for example to clinics, social workers and police stations. The campaign was launched after the mother of an addict complained that she had difficulty accessing services for her child.
A community development worker, Mr Sidney Modiba, said that a lack of employment opportunities is one of the main causes for substance abuse among the youth, but said that he was optimistic that the number of youths reached through the campaign will assist them in reducing the high rate of substance abuse by linking them with available skills and job opportunities.
During the campaign it also came to light that community members are concerned about the high number of drug users who relapse after returning from rehabilitation centres because of ineffective aftercare programmes.
Research conducted in the area showed that 56 percent of the community believe that substance abuse is very high, and another 57 percent of people felt that there was not enough information available about referral systems to services for drug users. A large portion of the community (86 percent) also indicated that MAWIGA LDAC needs to be more visible in the community in order to address the high level of substance abuse.
More than half of all the respondents (57 percent) said that they thought that spiritual values and practices can help address substance abuse issues.
The research also revealed that majority of people using the service for substance abusers (60 percent) are children between the ages of six and 15 years.
Mishack Mahlangu is the OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from the Tshwane district in Gauteng.