Drug abuse can cause permanent brain damage – ask for help from health workers | Western Cape Government

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Drug abuse can cause permanent brain damage – ask for help from health workers

5 July 2022

In June International Day against Drug Abuse and SANCA drug awareness week were observed to highlight the major problems that drugs pose to society. Substance abuse remains a huge problem in South Africa and has a serious effect on the physical and mental health of young people, their families and the communities where they live. Drug abuse has both short and long-term effects on the body. For a growing teenager, the impact can be significant. In young people, regular substance abuse can cause permanent damage to the brain and can lead to a life-long struggle with addiction.

“We see substance abuse influencing the youth and a lot of people come in with assaults and stab wounds with the history of abusing substances. We often treat young people who are highly intoxicated by unknown substances. I would advise all young people to stay away from drugs,” says Dr Genevieve da Silva, an Emergency Medical Doctor at Eerste River Hospital. 

Some of the common signs of substance abuse to look out for:

  • Sudden disinterest in school, work, or social responsibilities
  • Deteriorating physical health, chronic tiredness, or staying up for more hours
  • Secretive behavior and lying
  • Neglected appearance and or hygiene
  • Sudden changes in social network
  • Recent financial issues or requests for money
  • Involvement in criminal activity
  • Always hungry 

The Western Cape Government Health’s school health teams play an active role in educating young people about the dangers and effects of drug abuse. 

“Any drug use is unhealthy and has a bad impact on school kids. Using drugs also results in poor academic performance. We encounter a lot of kids who use drugs as coping mechanisms, but this does not assist at all. Cannabis and alcohol are amongst the common substances used by school kids. They are many physical harms associated with drug abuse. These kids often end up on the wrong side of the law. We provide regular school programmes and talks for kids to raise awareness on drug abuse.

If you or your loved one need help, we can help you. Just speak to your school health team or come to the clinic. We offer treatment for drug users and can refer you for counselling,” says Mr Lungisani Mani, a School Health Nurse at Michael Mapongwana Clinic.

You can also contact SANCA (South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Depen­dence) on WhatsApp, 076 535 1701 or call 011 892 3829.