Addiction & Rehabilitation Alcohol & Drugs OurHealth

The chronic disease of addiction

Written by Joba Matsheng

A former Jouberton drug addict believes drug addiction is like a chronic disease – and experts say he is right.

Two third of former addicts will relapse, according to government statistics

Two thirds of former addicts will relapse, according to government statistics

Kagiso Medupi* started using drugs in 2007 when he got a job at a filling station. He says he just wanted to experiment and did not expect to become addicted.

“I had smoke dagga before while at school, so when I tried cocaine I thought it would just be a once-off puff,” he told OurHealth.

But Medupi did become addicted. Soon his weekly R700 in wages would be gone in hours, and he would have to borrow money to survive, he said.

A year later, Medupi said he realised things could not go on as they were. He told his parents about this addiction and went into a rehabilitation centre.

He spent five years sober – until just three months ago when he began drinking and using cocaine again.

“I realised it was getting bad when I owed my colleagues more money than my salary,” he told OurHealth. “That’s when I had to admit that I’d had a relapse.”

He now says that addiction is like a chronic illness and many experts agree.

About two-thirds of former addicts will relapse after getting sober, according to parliamentary presentation made by Dr Ray Eberlein of the government’s Central Drug Authority. About half of these patients will relapse at least once and the other half will relapse continually, he said.

According to Eberlein, as of 2011 there were about 80 treatment centres nationwide capable of treating about 20,000 patients annually. However, he said the demand for drug and alcohol rehabilitation services was nine to 15 times that.

After relapsing, Medupi went to a rehabilitation facility for three weeks. Now back home, he must face up to a life without cocaine.

“I urge the youth to stay away from drugs – they aren’t worth it,” he cautioned. “(Drugs are) a waste of time, money and good health.”

*Name changed.

About the author

Joba Matsheng

Joba Matsheng is an OurHealth Journalist in Dr Kenneth Kaunda District in North West.