Min. Fernandez urges public to help in the fight against Drug and Alcohol Abuse | Western Cape Government


Min. Fernandez urges public to help in the fight against Drug and Alcohol Abuse

21 September 2020


It takes a tremendous amount of courage to seek help for drug and alcohol addiction, however, it may not always feel that way for people going through the process. As the provincial Department of Social Development, we recognise that providing assistance to individuals and families with drug and alcohol-related challenges is key to building the social fabric of our communities. There are many health and social consequences of drug and alcohol addiction and, in most cases, it can lead to the breakdown of families.

Despite the intrinsic dignity in addiction recovery, the persistent stigma and judgment that substance abuse disorder (SUD) survivors face when they endeavour to put their lives back together can be overwhelming and prevent them from moving forward, even leading to relapse. 

Whilst addiction has been recognised as a chronic medical disease (such as, being asthmatic, having heart disease, being diabetic, etc.) many individuals and communities continue to treat the disease as a life-long failure. This observation can be destructive when a person in recovery is attempting to get their life back on track.

We wish to remind all our communities that addiction is a chronic dysfunction of the brain system that involves reward, motivation, and memory. It’s about the way your body craves a substance or behaviour, especially if it causes a compulsive or obsessive pursuit of “reward” and lack of concern over consequences (Healthline, 2018).

The Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez said, “No one ever plans to become addicted to illegal substances. There are several reasons why individuals would try a substance or engage in risky behaviour. Some are driven by curiosity and peer pressure, while others are looking for a way to relieve their stress and trauma. Children who grow up in environments where drugs and alcohol are present have a greater risk of developing a substance use disorder.

Minister Fernandez said, “In order for us to fight the scourge of substance abuse ravaging our communities, we must acknowledge the importance of working together as a society. In this regard, collaboration amongst all stakeholders linked to the individual with a substance use disorder (SUD) is crucial to not only ensuring their successful reintegration into society but also to reduce their chances of relapsing.” 

A report presented at the National Conference on Substance Abuse and Family related interventions in 2019 indicates, that for every 1 substance abuse user, 17 people are affected negatively.

The Western Cape has the highest number of reported cases of drug and alcohol abuse in the country, which has prompted the province to make it a priority issue.

What are the Treatment Options?

  • Community-based treatment: Community-based treatment is a service offered to a person who uses drugs and alcohol in a harmful way, and whose behaviour affects the people around him/her negatively. This type of treatment involves attending regular sessions at a treatment centre and is often equally effective as residential care but less costly.
  • In-patient treatment: In-patient treatment means that the client will stay at a treatment centre for the duration of the rehabilitation process.

In the Western Cape, there are a total of 69 registered community-based treatment facilities, 29 registered inpatient treatment facilities and 3 registered Halfway houses. Please note that this includes both funded and unfunded facilities.

All centres follow a 9-week set programme with no differentiation between the type of addictions. The following support is provided at these centres: 

  • Bio-psychosocial assessment 
  • Individual Development Plan 
  • Review of the treatment process (1st & 2nd reviews) 
  • Occupational Therapy [life skills, management of stress & progressive relaxation] 
  • Social Workgroups and individual therapy 
  • Family Therapy 
  • Medical psycho-educational group sessions [personal hygiene, the process of addiction, nutrition, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases & the physical and psychological effects of drugs on the body]
  • Social sessions [ values, reflection, hair salon]
  • Indoor & outdoor games and sport
  • 24-hour supervision
  • Creativity [ woodwork, decoupage, glass & fabric paint]
  • 12 Step Group Sessions & Support groups

The provincial Department of Social Development currently funds a further 4 treatment programmes based at schools (areas Houtbay, Elsiesriver, Kuilsriver, Steenberg, Eerste River, Kraaifontein, Stellenbosch and Macassar) these programmes jointly target 550 adolescents. These programs contribute directly to early detection and educator support in the referral pathway that ensured a comprehensive substance abuse service to the respective learners. The scholastic based program available to schools is done either on the level of early intervention or community-based treatment. 

During the 2019/20 financial year,10 634 individuals accessed the Department’s Substance Abuse, Prevention and Rehabilitation services.

What are the Costs Involved in Rehabilitation Treatment?

Government rehabilitation facilities often provide treatment for little to no cost to the client, whereas government-subsidised centres have higher costs. Private treatment centres have varying costs but can be expensive in some cases. 

People are advised to contact the respective facility to enquire about any costs involved.

Warning Signs of Addiction:

If you are concerned that someone you care about is struggling with addiction, there are numerous warning signs any person can look for. However, it’s important to remember everyone is different; it may be harder to detect addiction in some people than in others. 

That being said, here are some general warning signs to be aware of:

  • Ignoring commitments or responsibilities
  • Problems at work, school or at home
  • Unexplained absences
  • Appearing to have a new set of friends
  • Considerable monetary fluctuations
  • Staying up later than usual or sleeping in longer
  • Lapses in concentration or memory
  • Being oddly secretive about parts of personal life
  • Withdrawal from normal social contacts
  • Sudden mood swings and change in behaviour
  • Unusual lack of motivation
  • Weight loss or changes in physical appearance

Where can one find help: 

Anybody needing more information or assistance can contact us on the www.heretohelp.co.za website, or the DSD hotline on 0800 220 250.

“Addressing and restoring the dignity of substance abuse users requires a whole of society approach. Together, we can beat drug and alcohol abuse, ” concluded Minister Fernandez.

For more information about our other services, please refer to the Western Cape Department’s Website below:


Media Enquiries: 

Joshua Covenant Chigome

Spokesperson for the Minister of Social Development, Minister Sharna Fernandez

Tel: 021 483 9217

Cell: 083 661 4949

Email: Joshua.chigome@westerncape.gov.za­