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How Substance Abuse Affects Your Health

There’s a thin line between enjoying alcohol and drugs here and there and being fully dependent on them.

Think you or someone you know might have a substance abuse problem? Read on.

According to The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, tik/nyaope and heroin are some of the most frequently used substances in this country. A lot of reasons drive people to use substances, in South Africa, the issue seems to be unemployment as a lot of young people are unemployed and rely on substances to pass the days by.

What is Substance Abuse?

Zamo Mbele, a psychologist from SADAG explains that substance abuse can simply be defined as a pattern of harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes. “Substances include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, tik/nyaope and heroin and more”. Thought all drugs have harmful effects, different drugs can have different effects on people. Some effects of drugs include health consequences that are long-lasting and permanent, like heart conditions ranging from abnormal heart rates to heart attacks and collapsed veins and blood vessel infections from injected drugs.

Here’s how you could check to see if you or someone you know may have dependency on substances:

  • Heavy use of alcohol or other drugs that lead you not to lead a normal lifestyle such as going to work, school or family.
  • Development of tolerance to use, meaning more of the drug or alcohol is needed to have the same effect.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you do not get your substance of choice.

Think someone you know might be a bit too dependent on drugs and alcohol? Here’s what you can do.

A lot of people have admitted that they started using substances experimentally and it became a regular thing where some built a dependency on the substance. There are also those who are in denial that they have an issue with substances, let us look at ways of helping someone with a substance abuse problem.

  • Before suggesting professional help, try creating a safe space, free of judgement where the person may feel comfortable talking about their substance issue and any other issue that they may be struggling with.
  • Monitor their intake of the substance and teaching the person to use less and less every day.
  • Take the person to a facility where they can be assessed by a professional.
  • Recovery process is life-long, so always encourage the person and compliment when they have made progress.
  • Put up boundaries so you may not be manipulated.


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Phumlani Kango is a contributing writer for the Anova Health Institute and these are his views, which may or may not reflect those of Anova and its affiliates.