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The end-of-year is a time to have fun and celebrate after a year of hard work. But it is also a time when there are more accidents, injuries and even deaths. This is often due to alcohol and drug abuse leading to irresponsible behaviour. 
It is natural for people to have fun during end-of-year celebrations. But it is very important to celebrate the holiday season responsibly. Everyone should make an effort not to drink and drive, to respect other people's property, practice safe sex and say "no" to violence. 
Alcohol and drugs
The World Drug Report, as well as studies by the Medical Research Council, found that almost half of South Africa's population is affected by alcohol abuse. 
This means that almost half out of a population of about 46 million people abuse alcohol at some time or another. It seems that this problem gets worse and worse each year. 
Risky drinking means drinking the first thing in the morning before eating, drinking to get drunk or having alcoholic drinks instead of food at meal times. 
Furthermore, studies also show that about 2,2 million South Africans use dagga, cocaine, heroin, speed, LSD, hashish, ecstasy, tik and other drugs. 
Alcohol and drug abuse affects people's ability to think clearly and to make the right choices. An example is what has been happening in Hillbrow during festive celebrations. People throw large items, even household appliances out of windows. It damages property and causes injury to people in the streets. 
Alcohol abuse can also lead to violent behaviour. This means people get into fights and even kill each other. In addition, it can lead to violence against women and children. It can also cause drunk parents to neglect or abandon young helpless children. 
People who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs often practice unsafe sex. This can lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and Aids. 
Apart from accidents and violence, drug and alcohol abuse also cause health problems. This includes damage to the brain, liver, heart and immune system. 
Pregnant women who drink and abuse drugs also harm their unborn children. Studies show that about 500 000 South Africans suffer from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder. This means babies whose mothers drank a lot of alcohol during pregnancy are born with health problems. It can cause brain damage and heart problems or below average weight and height in babies. 
Road accidents
Alcohol reduces a driver's ability to act and think clearly. Every year, road accidents cost our economy over R43 billion. Many of the people killed on the roads are those who are active in the economy and who support their families. 
A drunk driver stands to lose a lot if arrested. The punishment for drinking and driving is a R120 000 fine or six years in prison. Because dunk driving is illegal, a drunk driver will also get a criminal record. 
If you are caught, your driver's licence and your vehicle may be taken away. 
A shocking number of pedestrians are killed each year on South Africa's roads. Many of these people are found to be under the influence of alcohol. Pedestrians should never drink and walk on the road. 
Many informal settlements are situated next to highways. Pedestrians should be extra careful when crossing busy roads. Always look, listen and look again before you cross. 
- Muzi Mkhwanazi