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Getting help to tackle substance abuse

Substance abuse is on the rise, especially among the youth.

While it affects individuals, it has the knock-on effect of tearing apart communities and increasing crime rates.

National and provincial health departments’ programmes to combat substance abuse are founded on counselling healthier life choices and promoting active lifestyles.

These services are based in child and youth care centres or, in the Western Cape, at one of their The Mass participation; Opportunity and access; Development and growth (MOD) Programme centres.

Getting help

If you or someone you know needs help with a substance abuse problem your first stop should be your local community centre or clinic.

Here trained medical professionals or social workers will assess you and direct you to the services available in your area.

Don’t ignore the problem. Hoping the problem will go away on its own does not work. The sooner treatment begins the sooner the problem can be beaten.

Ignoring the problem or protecting a loved one from the consequences of their actions will keep them from getting the help they need.

Access to treatment

You can choose to go to a clinic in your community or one outside where you live. With the help of a medical professional, treatment options will be considered and a plan put into place.

Early intervention programmes are community-based and are considered the best option for youth who have only just begun experimenting.

Family of substance abusers and their dependent children can choose a community-based option.

This allows those closest to the patient to be part of the treatment and may help addicts to keep working. This is a more cost-effective option to in-patient treatment.

In-patient treatment would mean an extended stay in a registered treatment facility – usually away from family and familiar temptations.

Treatment would involve medical interventions, if necessary, and counselling.

Aftercare and counselling

Aftercare is vital to recovery. Recovering addicts are encouraged to attend aftercare and counselling for as long as needed.

It is the best way to spot or treat a relapse.

Support groups are vitally important – not just for recovering addicts but for family as well. Talking through a problem and sharing experiences allows addicts and their families to build support networks that will help deal with the stresses associated with addiction and recovery.  

The myths

The truth will set you free, they say. Knowing these myths about addiction will aid your recovery or help you help a loved one.

MYTH 1: Overcoming harmful use or dependency is simply a matter of willpower. "You can stop using drugs if you really want to."

FACT: Prolonged exposure to drugs and alcohol alters the brain. These brain changes make it extremely difficult for an individual to quit by sheer force of will.

MYTH 2: Substance use disorder is a disease, so there’s nothing you can do about it.

FACT: Substance abuse is a disease, but that doesn't mean you’re a helpless victim. Dependency can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise and other treatments.

MYTH 3: People with drug and alcohol disorders have to hit rock bottom before they can get better.

FACT: Treatment and attention to the matter can begin at any point of recovery. The earlier help is obtained, the better.

MYTH 4: You can't force someone into treatment. They have to want help.

FACT: Treatment doesn't have to be voluntary to be successful. Someone who is pressured into treatment can still benefit and make a full recovery from addiction.

MYTH 5: Treatment didn't work before, so there’s no point trying again. Some cases are just hopeless.

FACT: Recovery from substance use disorder is a long process. It often involves setbacks. A relapse doesn't mean that treatment has failed.