Weed is the number one choice for KZN teens
Young black dagga users are filling up KwaZulu-Natal's rehab centres.
That's the grim picture painted by the latest statistics released by the Medical Research Council's alcohol, tobacco and other drug research unit at a report back meeting in Durban on Wednesday.
MRC chief specialist scientist Arvin Bhana revealed that of the 1,217 patients in treatment for drug abuse, 97% in the 19 and younger category were black.
But this crisis deepened, with the figures in the 20 to 35 age group revealing that 78% were black as well.
"So what are people mainly abusing in KwaZulu-Natal? Alcohol and dagga," said Bhana.
Overall, 30% of patients were addicted to alcohol and dagga was the drug of choice for 32%.
The dagga problem among youngsters, according to a 2016 SA Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use report, is not confined to KwaZulu-Natal.
"In all sites, cannabis was reported as the predominant primary substance of abuse by patients younger than 20 years.
"Cannabis use ... was followed by alcohol across all sites," the report stated.
Back in KwaZulu-Natal, this year's data by age showed that 50% of adolescents were using dagga and 23% were drinking alcohol.
The research found nyaope and whoonga were also gaining ground.
"You are three times more likely to have a mental health problem if you smoke dagga," Bhana said.
A health department official, who did not want to be named, said poverty, unemployment and the rise of blessers were some of the factors fuelling a high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse in KwaZulu-Natal.