SA is a nation of boozers, addicts
The average South African drinks a bakkie-load of booze a year, or 20.1litres of pure alcohol, research by the Central Drug Authority has found.
The authority 's acting chairman, Dr Ray Eberlein, told a parliamentary committee yesterday: "If we had a boozing world cup, South Africa wouldn't even have to practise."
The 20.1 litres are equivalent to 196 six-packs of beer, 62 bottles of spirits, 220 bottles of wine or 666 cartons of sorghum beer.
Eberlein told MPs that about 37% of South Africans "drink from early Friday afternoon until Monday morning, staying drunk all weekend".
"The worst of it all is on Monday, when 10% of the people on the road are likely to be drunk."
The research, which surveyed more than 200 000 people nationally between June last year and March, also found that the rates of substance abuse in South Africa were very high, with the use of drugs such as dagga and cocaine being twice the global average.
South Africans, said Eberlein, were among the top 10 consumers of alcohol globally.
He warned that binge drinking was becoming a serious problem - about 7000 people are killed by drunken drivers each year.
The authority also found that the problem of alcoholism had worsened since March.
The damage caused by alcohol abuse is estimated at R78-billion a year.
Eberlein also raised the alarm bells about a string of new addictive substances flooding into South Africa.
Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are awash with nicotine-rich "kuber", which is labelled as breath freshener and sold in shops in plastic sachets.
Eberlein said that, though the authority is still waiting for the results of drug analyses, the substance has reportedly been banned in Malawi because it is highly addictive.
Kuber reportedly sells for between R2.50 and R5 for a small packet.
The Times' sister publication, the Sowetan, reported earlier this year that Durban street vendors were selling a chewable tobacco as a "Chinese sweet" that "prolonged sexual enjoyment".
In Limpopo, children were plucking the ephedrine based-khat - khat is a flowering plant endemic to East Africa - and chewing it on their way to school.
The drug is also vacuum-packed and transported to Cape Town in refrigerated trucks, he said.
Tik was rapidly spreading from Cape Town to the Northern Cape, and pupils are also mixing cocaine with lip-ice, Vaseline, or Zambuk so that they can apply the drug to their lips during school hours.
"We have no indication that this is yet being sold," he said.
Eberlein said the Central Drug Authority had recently detected a 61% increase in the growth of opium-producing poppies in Afghanistan.
"So we are expecting an increase in opium on our shores and a drastic reduction in the price," he said.
With many drug users earning less than R1000 a month, "economic necessity dictates that drug users consume whatever they can get their hands on".
The Times reported last month that, according to the SA Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use, the most popular narcotic for people younger than 20 in Western Cape is dagga, followed by tik.