15 July 2009

3.2 million dagga smokers in SA

Drug consumption in South Africa is currently twice the world norm and the use of cocaine and dagga has increased by 20% in two years, the Central Drugs Authority (CDA) said.

Drug consumption in South Africa is currently twice the world norm and the use of cocaine and dagga has increased by 20% in two years, the Central Drugs Authority (CDA) said.

"The drug problem in South Africa remains very serious with drug usage being twice the world norm in most cases...and we are only dealing with what we know about...this is only the tip of the iceberg," said Dr David Bayever of the CDA, a government drug control organisation.

In 2006 2.52 million people used dagga and this increased to 3.2 million in 2008, said Bayever speaking at the release in Pretoria of the United Nations 2009 World Drug Report.

The use of cocaine increased from 0.24 million in 2006 to 0.29 million in 2008.

However the use of opiates such as heroin decreased by 20% during the same time period.

15% of SA population has drug problem
Accordingly in 1996, 1% of South Africans were in treatment for heroin abuse while in 2008 those in treatment for this addiction increased between 8 – 24%. The number of South Africans in treatment for cocaine addiction increased from 1.5% in 1996 to 17.5% in 2008.

Bayever said that 15% of South Africa's population had a drug problem and that the country needed to change its approach to dealing with the issue as social structure continued to change.

There were more single mothers raising children in the country at present than before and child-headed households had doubled between 2002 and 2007.

An increase in child-headed households from 701 000 in 2007 to 5.7 million was expected by 2015.

This would have negative effects on these children in terms of their behaviour and achievement, possibly leading to drug use.

Fighting organised crime key to fighting drugs
The Fifa Soccer World Cup was also likely to bring an increase in demand as well as drug trafficking while the current recession in South Africa may not necessarily affect drug users.

"Where there is a problem of substance abuse, cost may not always be a factor...users may change their drug of choice or there may be an increase in crime to sustain their habits," he said.

United Nations regional representatives for Southern Africa from the office on Drugs and Crime, Dr Jonathan Lucas, said tackling organised crime was the key to resolving the continent's drug problem.

He identified west African narcotics cartels as threats as they traffic drugs from Asia as well as Latin America particularly to Western Europe.

"The challenge for Africa is not to say no to drugs but to say no to organised crime," he said.

The threat drug use posed for the continent was that it promoted poverty, lack of opportunity and despair. Organised crime, as the root of the drug problem, fuelled corruption, political instability, it emptied Africa of its wealth, impeded development and chased away foreign investment, Lucas said.

Bayever said that they played a small part in contributing to worldwide drug use which showed that drugs cultivated in the country were used and consumed in South Africa. – (Sapa, July 2009)

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