'Sanca believes that not only the government needs this type of information, but that all citizens should be educated that addiction is a medical condition.'
As the furore raged around the sin tax increase by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in his budget speech this week, with dire warnings around people flocking to criminal syndicates for cheaper products, it is the people trying to shake their addictions who have been left out of the picture.
Adrie Vermeulen, the national director of the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca), said: “Addiction affects the specific part of our brain that controls our logical thinking.
“That is why people with addictive disorders cannot logically make a choice not to use the substance again and again. Addiction is treatable, but not curable.”
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Vermeulen said Sanca’s patients were usually referred.
“The referral sources are mainly family members, doctors, medical aid schemes, workplaces or schools, courts and other community structures,” she said.
“The person doesn’t always willingly agree to treatment and have to be cohorts to do so. This is due to the denial that protects them from seeing the full extent of the impact their addiction on themselves and others.”
Sanca offered different programmes on an outpatient and inpatient basis.
“A full assessment is conducted to determine how severe the person’s problem is and, in turn, what level of care they will require,” she said.
Vermeulen believed the government and citizens needed more information as sin taxes were not enough to discourage substance abusers.
“Sanca believes that not only the government needs this type of information, but that all citizens should be educated that addiction is a medical condition.”
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Vermeulen also said there were different factors that triggered substance abusers into relapsing after they received treatment from the respective facilities.
“Every person has internal and external triggers that will be unique to them. Internal triggers are linked to emotions and memories caused by previous use of the substance, trauma, loss and grief,” she said.
“External triggers are due to the environment but could even be the time of day, the date one gets paid or driving past a place you ‘scored’.”
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