Substance abuse refers to the harmful and excessive use of psychoactive substances. This category includes a variety of substances such as medication, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Both legal and illegal substances contain chemicals that can alter how an individual’s body and mind work. These substances are known to alter an individual’s mood by giving them a pleasurable “high”, easing stress, or help one avoid problems in their day-to-day life. These drugs are popular across age and cultures and are said to have addictive properties.

Substance abuse is considered to not only be detrimental to an individual’s own health but also impacts the society at large. The financial and social burden resulting from the abuse of substances as well as the negative health consequences individuals endure and the inability to work has a tremendous impact on the society.

When having a closer look at the data, Cannabis is the most widely used drug in the African Region, closely followed by alcohol. Further, the use of Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) such as ecstasy is also seen to be increasing in the African Region. Due to urbanisation and other social developments using drugs has become a common problem in today’s world.

Although the fact that the excessive drinking of alcohol also counts to substance abuse, most of the people tend to lessen their consumption and rather categorize their pattern of drinking as normal and “under control”.

According to a recent study conducted in Namibia, the most common sited factors implicated in substance abuse are loneliness, stress at work and at home and boredom. Indeed, the reasons for substance abuse range from social and personal issues to merely using substances to just have fun and fit in with peers. The drawbacks, however, are always higher than previously expected. Often, substance abuse and mental illness go hand in hand. When this happens, it’s termed a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis.

The use of psychoactive substances causes significant health and social problems for the people who use them, and also for others in their environment like families, communities and work.

When individuals use drugs, their behaviour is impacted their behaviour such as being more stressed, aggressive, depressed and ego-oriented. This is intensified if they feel the need to get another supply/infusion and yet are currently not able. When an individual has a substance abuse problem, their world revolves around the drug, even if they are still able to work and meet your daily duties.

Further symptoms that are indicative of the presence of a substance abuse problem are having health issues like breathing difficulties, sweating and shaking, feeling low-energized and having low motivation without the drug and simply not being able to limit or omit the use, as well as the emergence of relationship problems caused by interference. In addition, there is also a constant craving for the substance in order to get the same effect out of it, due to building tolerance to it. It is often a long and difficult journey to understanding and recognising the fact that you may be addicted to a substance(s).

A treatment plan will depend on a person’s needs and will take into consideration such things as the severity of the problem, the person’s support network, and the person’s desire and motivation to start the treatment. As every human is an individual, so is his or her abuse.

Protection against substance abuse begins very early, namely in school. Education at all levels needs to demonstrate and explain the widespread consequences of substance abuse. Especially in modern times; the accessibility to drugs has grown dramatically which means that we must protect and enlighten the younger generation even stronger than ever before.

Did you recognise a problem in yourself or in a loved one? Don’t be ashamed or hesitate to get professional help!