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Drug Use Statistics: South Africa

The drug problem in South Africa has been on a continual rise, especially in the last few years. Methaqualone (Quaaludes), cocaine, marijuana (known as dagga in South Africa), and heroin are all drugs that are becoming increasingly popular.

Dr. David Bayever of the CDA is Very Concerned

Dr. David Bayever from the government drug control organization, known as the CDA, is quoted saying “The drug problem in South Africa remains very serious with drug usage being twice the world norm in most cases…and we are only dealing with what we know about…this is only the tip of the iceberg,”. Bayever says that at least 15% of South Africans have a drug problem; this number however is expected to rise. While some drugs are produced directly in South Africa, it is also a major transshipment hub for importing and exporting them.

New Environments Promote Drug Use

South Africa is located in the southern most part of Africa and has a population of nearly 50 million people. By area, South Africa is one-eighth the size of the United States, just over one-third the size of the European Union, twice as big as France, and nearly four times the size of Germany. Over the past decade, South Africa has become a major country involved in international drug trafficking networks. Experts agree that it is becoming harder and harder to deal with the explosion of the drug trade.

There have been drastic political changes that have been accompanied by social transitioning, rapid modernization, high unemployment rates, and a decline in social, cultural, and family values. As a result, drug use has flourished and new environments, such as night clubs, that promote drug use have been created. These environments appear especially promising for adolescents and young adults looking for an escape. It is in these places that drugs look cool and casual sex is acceptable. Unfortunately, these places are a haven for heavy drug abuse and diseases; such as, HIV and AIDS.

A Closer Look: Most Abused Drug Statistics

Let’s take a closer look at the statistics of the most abused drugs in South Africa. Please note that these statistics are from the World Health Organization or WHO. We are not going to talk about Methaqualone (Quaaludes) in this article, as it will be discussed in an article coming up.

Statistics on Alcohol Use in South Africa

Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in South Africa. Nearly half of vehicular accidents are caused by drinking and driving. It is estimated that at least 30% of the South African population have a drinking problem. Unfortunately, because of the problem the country is facing with alcohol it has one of the highest amounts of children born with fetal alcohol syndrome; some research says it is the highest in the world. Statistics show that adolescents are at an extremely high risk for developing a drinking problem before they are 21 years of age. People between the ages of 18 and 22 are listed as having the most problems with alcohol abuse in the country.

Due to the emergence of more and more bars and clubs alcohol is some professional’s opinion is being glamorized. Many experts agree that if the country continues down this path, South Africa could become the country with the worst alcohol problem in the world.

Statistics on Cocaine Use in South Africa

Because this country is a major shipping hub, drugs like cocaine are often coming and going through it on a regular basis. Some of the shipments are to be shipped to other countries and some are offloaded on the local streets. Many young people are getting involved in the illegal trade of cocaine because of the money and the lifestyle that come along with it. Many of them are also getting busted and are being sent to detention or prison.

The use of cocaine in South Africa has risen by 20% in two years and is steadily rising. In 1996, approximately 1.6% of South Africans sought out treatment for cocaine abuse; this number rose to 17.5% by 2008. A survey conducted in 2008, suggested that at least 290,000 South Africans had used cocaine in that year alone. The estimated amount of cocaine used was over 500 million South African Rand, which is over 72 million USD.

Statistics on Heroin Use in South Africa:

Heroin use has nearly doubled in the last year in South Africa. This price of heroin has substantially been lowered, making it more affordable for people. It has been specifically marketed in certain townships and areas around the country. In a southern suburb known as Chatsworth, heroin is referred to as “sugars” and affects at least 70 percent of households. In the Tshwane’s township, people are especially vulnerable to “Nyaope”; a mixture of heroin and marijuana that has become very popular.

Heroin in South Africa is being sold under names like “Plazana” and “Kwape” and is commonly mixed with other substances. In 2008, between 8 and 25 percent of South Africans were being treated for heroin abuse and/or addiction. Many people are turning to the government to step in and take control, but because of the popularity, profit, and availability it is hard for the government to stop it completely with limited resources and funds.


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  1. sethu says

    your statistics helped me a lot in writting story about drug abuse focusing on teenagers

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