26th June 2024…Substance abuse awareness day!

Hey Chomas…

We have spoken so much about this topic before, from identifying when someone is abusing alcohol to how to speak to a friend about their substance use or abuse problem.

Let’s get back to basics.

What is the difference between substance use and abuse?

Using substances means drinking alcohol or smoking or injecting drugs, any form of intake that causes your mind to be disoriented, therefor causing your thinking and behavior to not function as per usual. This usually happens when there is a celebration or a so called ‘special occasion’, that some people may find it fitting to have one or two drinks to celebrate together.

Substance abuse however, is different. This is when the drinking or smoking is no longer a form of celebration but an over use of substances. A person may start drinking more regularly, either every weekend or every day and does not seem to have a limit, this is also known as addiction to substances. The substance starts controlling you.

What causes alcohol or drug abuse?

It could be anything from stress to mental health issues such as depression, as well as just learning to cope by consuming substances. In other cases, a person might start living a life of partying or hanging out with friends regularly, and start depending on alcohol to make them fun…this has also been known to be provoked by a low-self-esteem, when a person doesn’t feel good about themselves and relies on alcohol to make them more interesting…the feeling is always temporary and leads to further consumption of alcohol if we don’t learn to deal with our problems. Substance abuse has led to violence, abuse in the household, worse cases of mental health conditions and loss of loved ones and jobs, to say the least.

In this modern age, what qualifies as substances?

  • Nyaope, one of the cheapest forms of drugs in South Africa
  • Other drugs such as Crystal methampatime (known as meth or CAT); Crack Cocaine (known as coke) and Heroin (known as brown sugar)
  • Cannabis (marijuana, also known as weed, joint),
  • Alcohol
  • Cigarette and Hookah (also known as hubbly bubbly or oka pipe)

These are just some examples of well know substances, there are plenty more out there.

How do we prevent substance abuse?

The best way to prevent substance abuse is by not using the substances to start with. Regular use of any substance can lead to substance abuse. If one is disciplined enough, it will show through how frequently they consume and in the volume of the substance. For example, drinking alcohol once every Saturday or only once a month or only when there is a toast or one day celebration, and when starting to feel the effect of alcohol (also known as getting tipsy) knowing when to stop.

We also need to remember Choma, that substance abuse does not happen in a vacuum. There are usually other deep seated issues that might be leading us to use alcohol for example, as a coping mechanism. Understanding ourselves and our triggers is an important step in trying to prevent and address the issues we are struggling with and developing healthy coping mechanisms. Speaking to someone about our challenges is a good first step toward facing and addressing our issues so as not to use substances.

How do I get help for substance abuse?

There are organizations such as AA (Alcoholic Anonymous), the Department of Health’s alcohol line and SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group) who are skilled in assisting with substance abuse. If you or a loved one needs assistance, check out the details below:

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

24/7 Hotline 0861 435 722

WhatsApp 0730212523

Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Helpline
0800 12 13 14
SMS 32312

South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)

Ke Moja Substance Abuse
087 163 2025

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, an  Instagram message, a  Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).