No matter your socio-economic situation, you have or will have to come to terms with someone close to you who has a problem with addiction.
International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is a UN International Day observed annually on 26 June. It is focused on the impact of drug addiction and the illegal trade in narcotics.
Drug abuse is a social problem that affects all of us in a general way. The illicit trade in drugs and desperate drug users exacerbate the existing crime problems in the country, while also creating a drain on public resources such as health care and policing.
Close to home
Yet the more personal consequences of drug addiction are often not understood. The responsibility for loved ones and the fallout when loved ones spiral under the influence of drugs can wreak havoc on the entire family.
The movie Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies story was a sobering reminder of the devastation drug addiction can and does cause.
According to Leigh Joy Mansel-Pleydell, a specialist in addiction counselling and herself a recovering addict, there are a number of reasons people become addicted.
Having a better understanding of these factors could help us deal with addiction in our families and social circles.
Why do people become addicted
According to Mansel-Pleydell, genetic disposition has a significant role to play in addiction. Studies show strong evidence that there is a higher chance of addiction for individuals with a history of addiction in their family.
Yet not everyone with a family history of addiction is doomed to addiction themselves, and caregivers should be aware of the added risk to individuals with a family history of substance abuse.
Another conventional catalyst for addiction is untreated and undiagnosed trauma, according to Mansel-Pleydell. For many with undiagnosed trauma, drugs can be a way to avoid dealing with their pain.
This – along with the fact that a significant percentage of addicts have dual-diagnosis, living with an additional mental illness like anxiety, depression or personality disorder – makes the spiral into abuse hard for people to resist.
This can be especially pronounced during divorce, adoption, or if a parent or caregiver passes away.
For Mansel-Pleydell, it’s important that more people prioritise self-care. Learning how to insist that others treat you with dignity and respect is critical if you are to change the way that you treat yourself.
Where to get help
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) established a dedicated toll-free helpline which is dedicated to substance abuse counselling and referrals.
If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance, contact SADAG on 0800 11 8392.