The South African National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (SANCA) Drug Awareness Week takes place from the 22nd to the 28th of June. It is an opportunity to look back at the past, examine the present and look to the future in terms of how to effectively address and reduce the impact of substance use disorder.
Substance use disorder is a very serious issue in countries across the world, with approximately 275 million people aged 15-64 years of age having used drugs at least once during 2016 according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2016). This source indicates that in 2019:
- 192 million people used cannabis
- 21 million people used ecstasy
- 19 million people used opiates
- 34 people used amphetamines and prescription stimulants
- 18 million people used cocaine
Substance use and mental illness can be closely linked in what is known as a dual-diagnosis. According to SANE Australia (2019), if a person has a mental illness, they may stand a greater chance of using drugs as a form of self-medication to improve their symptoms in the short term. In other cases, illicit substances may trigger the onset of a mental health condition. Certain drugs may trigger what is known as drug-induced psychosis. If someone has a predisposition to a psychotic illness, the use of drugs may cause a first episode in an illness that can last a lifetime. Using these substances may also make symptoms of a mental health condition worse or diminish the effectiveness of treatment. On this basis, SANE advises that people with mental health conditions or those who are vulnerable to mental health conditions stay away from all kinds of illicit drugs.