Drug illness costs spiral
The Western Cape provincial government has over the past four years more than doubled its budget for dealing with alcohol and drug abuse.
Premier Helen Zille and Social Development MEC Albert Fritz yesterday announced that the provincial government would this year spend more than R87-million in its efforts to tackle the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
This figure is up from R42-million the province set aside to deal with the scourge four years ago.
The announcement comes in the wake of the recent spike in gang violence on the Cape Flats, which has also shone the spotlight on substance abuse.
The money will cater for more 13500 people in need of residential and outpatient treatment facilities.
The province also increased the number of rehabilitation centres from eight in 2008 to 25 this year.
Two years ago, a World Health Organisation report showed that South Africa had one of the highest rates of health disorder related to alcohol abuse.
At the time, President Jacob Zuma expressed concern about alcohol and drug abuse, particularly in Mitchells Plain, saying: "Statistics indicate that the age of experimentation with drugs is nine years, which is way too disturbing."
The government warned about stricter legislation, including raising the legal age for alcohol consumption to 21.
Zille said that foetal alcohol syndrome remained a challenge in outlying rural areas and farms.
"Competition over turf in the drug trade is a major contributor to gang wars," Fritz said.
"But, in addition, substance abuse is destroying countless young lives, trapping people in permanent poverty, rendering them unemployable, and driving school drop-outs and teenage pregnancies. Most violent crimes, particularly domestic violence, as well as many motor vehicle crashes, are linked to substance abuse, creating tragedy in countless lives and costing society billions of rands."