Substance abuse services available for young learners amidst exams | Western Cape Government


Substance abuse services available for young learners amidst exams

26 October 2021

The Western Cape continues struggling against the rising tide of drug use, especially among the youth. The Phase 48 Report published in 2021 by the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (SACENDU) shows that a disturbing 20-30% of patients treated for substance use disorders (SUDs) across 31 treatment centres across Western Cape were under the age of 20 years old - and those are merely the figures of youth who have undergone treatment.

While exposure to gangsterism, poverty, dysfunctional families, a lack of support from social groups or communities are major risk-factors for (SUDs) amongst young people in the Western Cape, another contributing risk-factor is often due to emotional reasons, such as alienation, disconnectedness, loneliness and lack of routine, which can arise for various reasons.

“When it comes to the youth, we know that periods of increased stress, such as is experienced during exams, can be a major source of pressure and distress for young residents in our province. This can sometimes lead to unhealthy behaviours as a way to cope with the feelings that they are struggling to manage,” said the Western Cape Minister for Social Development, Sharna Fernandez.

“Let us be extra supportive and compassionate towards our youth, as they will undoubtedly feel the pressure and stress of writing examinations. If you think that any young persons you know are turning to psycho-active substances as a form of dealing with the stress of exams, please let them know that we are here to help and that services are available for them,” added Minister Fernandez.

Easy-access, high-quality treatment services are an essential means of tackling SUD and reintegrating youth back into society. As such, the provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) has established school-based programmes at identified high-risk areas, namely Mitchells Plain, Ocean view, Elsies River, Hanover, Hout Bay and Steenberg, amongst others aimed at early detection and appropriate interventions for young learners involved in substance abuse. The Department currently funds 6 services providers specially working at schools.

The provincial Department of Social Development (DSD), with the support of its Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) partners, also provides a wide array of (SUD) programmes, ranging from prevention, early intervention through to community-based and in-patient rehabilitation and aftercare services.

All programmes funded by the DSD are registered in accordance with the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act, Act 70 of 2008.

Services offered by the DSD and its NPO partners for youth include, amongst others:

  • Awareness, primary prevention, early intervention, aftercare services;
  • Specialized services for victims of gender-based violence. Female service users can also be admitted with their minor children for the duration of their treatment.
  • Specialized treatment for youth between 13 and 17 years of age, at funded inpatient treatment centres;
  • Residential or Inpatient Treatment centres and non-residential outpatient (also known as community-based) treatment centres and 
  • Reintegration and after-care support. 

“I would like to thank all the individuals, communities, organisations and civil society working together to help provide support to those experiencing a SUD. The services being offered are here to help the public,” concluded Minister Fernandez.

Finding the right help:

Earlier this year, the Department launched its substance use disorder campaign that makes use of a series of videos and visuals depicting that when you access the right help for yourself, your loved ones can be positively affected too. 

A key focus of the campaign is alerting the public about the importance of accessing the right help for any person dealing with a SUD, and how the right help can make all the difference in getting their lives back on track.

Please see link to campaign here:

If you or someone you care about has a substance use disorder or if you feel that you can’t cope with the symptoms of substance abuseat school or at home, getting help is the first step.

The treatment of a SUD is a process, and ongoing support is provided throughout a programme.

For more information on how to get the right help call 0800 220 250,  or visit our local offices at the Department of Social Development or visit

Media Enquiries: 

Joshua Covenant Chigome

Spokesperson for the Minister of Social Development, Minister Sharna Fernandez