While many have recognised mental health as the second pandemic resulting from the loss lives and isolation that accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic. Excessive drug use has been a major problem in South Africa even prior to the Covid-19, in particular alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs such as tik, mandrix, and nyaope.  Covid-19 appears to have further exacerbated the use of drugs such as alcohol, with most people having struggled with their mental health leading to increase use in substances.

The World Health Organisation has noted not only does South Africa have one the highest prevalence rates of mental illness with 30% of all adults likely to experience a mental disorder in their lifetime. Coupled with the high rate of substance abuse in particular that of alcohol in which South Africa is ranked 6th in the world in terms of consumption, making the issue of mental health and substance abuse critically important.

As we commemorate drug awareness week it is important to keep in mind the effects that substance abuse has on lives of people. The physiological effects of substance abuse such as liver disease and has other social effects such as road accidents while also contributing to increase burden of diseases such as HIV. The impact of substance abuse on families, particularly the quality of the relationships between parents and children. In addition, substance abuse leads to increased risk of violence both within the home and at the level of communities. South Africa has seen an increase in violent crimes in particular Gender Based Violence, although no direct correlation can be drawn from the increase in substance abuse and Gender Based Violence, it is recognised as a major contributing factor in violence.

Against these factors it may be useful for us as psychologists to consider the ways in which we may intervene to reduce the impact of substance abuse in the lives of South Africans. Well awareness about the dangers of substance abuse is integral, it is also vital that we take into consideration various ways in which to intervene with individuals dealing with substance abuse. While there are resources available, as with many resources in the country these are significantly under resourced. It may be important for us as psychologists to find ways in which we can assist the various organisations that attempt to intervene with substance abuse.

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