Substance abuse is on the increase in South Africa and alcohol, marijuana (dagga), cocaine, tik and heroin are some of the most frequently used substances, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).


Substance Abuse versus Substance Addiction

Substance abuse is a pattern of harmful use of any legal or illegal substance for mood-altering purposes. The substances may include alcohol, prescription medication, glue, and others. Substance abuse is different from addiction in that the person can quit or change their unhealthy behaviour.

Addiction, on the other hand, is a disease and an individual cannot stop using the substance even if it is harming them.


Causes of substance use disorders

Substance use disorders may be associated with a variety of issues including mental health illnesses such as schizophrenia, panic disorders, social phobia, or depression. In many cases people attempt to cope with their emotional pain, stress, loneliness, or sadness through self-medication, using alcohol, and legal and or illegal substances. This can lead to the abuse of these substances.


Signs and symptoms of substance use 

  • Regular or daily use of the substance or even several times a day.
  • The intense urge for the substance that blocks out any other thoughts.
  • The need for more of the substance to get the same effect over time.
  • The need to take larger amounts of the substance over a longer period than intended.
  • Ensuring that one always has a supply of the substance.
  • The spending of money on the substance, even if one cannot afford it.
  • The reduction of meeting obligations, work responsibilities, and social or recreational activities because of substance use.
  • The continuous use of the substance, even though one is aware that it is causing problems in their life and physical or psychological harm.
  • Performing acts that one would normally not do such as stealing to get the substance.

SAMWUMED benefits for treatment of substance use disorder

SAMWUMED has a Mental Health Programme that provides support to patients suffering from drug and alcohol abuse – giving them access to the best family practitioners, psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals. Click here.