Fight against drink abuse must be extended to drugs
The Times Editorial: Those who doubt that South Africa is in the grip of an alcoholism and drug-dependency crisis would have been quickly disabused if they had sat in on yesterday's presentation to parliament's social development committee.
Dr Ray Eberlein, acting chairman of the Central Drug Authority, told MPs that the average South African drinks a small bakkie- load of booze each year, or 20.1litres of pure alcohol.
He said the depredations of alcoholism had worsened since March, when a survey by the authority - a statutory body that advises the government on combating substance abuse - put the cost of the damage caused by alcohol at R78-billion a year.
The cost to the state of road accidents, hospitalisation and other damages linked to alcohol abuse is now estimated at R130-billion a year - 6.45% of our GDP.
The potential cost to family life is even more frightening - a staggering 37% of South Africans are drunk for the entire weekend.
It is against this backdrop that government attempts to crack down on people who sell liquor to children, to reduce alcohol trading hours, to charge with murder drunken drivers who kill people and to severely restrict, or even ban, alcohol advertising, should be viewed.
South Africans are literally drinking themselves to death - at great cost to the economy and their families - and drastic measures are called for.
Eberlein also sounded an alert about the sudden appearance of new narcotics - often targeted at school children - including the nicotine-rich "kuber", which is labelled as breath freshener and sold in local shops, and the ephedrine-based "khat".
Growing numbers of pupils are using lip-ice, or ointment mixed with cocaine or cannabis, to attain an all-day high at school.
The state needs to match its commitment to fighting alcohol abuse with a concerted drive to protect our children from drug pushers.