Master of Ceremonies Distinguished guests Colleagues Delegates Ladies and Gentlemen

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1 SPEECH FOR DR J BENJAMIN, THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AT THE LAUNCHING OF THE WESTERN CAPE SUBSTANCE ABUSE FORUM IN CAPE TOWN ON THE 25 TH OF FEBRUARY 2005 Master of Ceremonies Distinguished guests Colleagues Delegates Ladies and Gentlemen I am truly pleased to be part of this historic launching of the Western Cape Provincial Substance Abuse Forum. It is indeed a confirmation of the historic and current dedication that the people of Western Cape are committed in combating and preventing substance abuse. This event is specifically relevant as a response to the prevention of substance abuse. Let me start by analysing the drug problem in the country, in order for us to have a vivid understanding of the nature and extent of this problem and show how the provincial forum could help prevent it. On a global level, drug abuse is escalating and is increasingly complex. It can no longer be argued that drug abuse is taking place only among marginalized groups, or mainly in the Western Industrialised World. Drug abuse affects everyone. South Africa is for a number of reasons experiencing an acceptable increase in substance abuse and its associated problems. The major reason is the

2 social and political transformation and also the strategic position of the country with good infrastructure that allow easy access into the country through our borders. Currently, Western Cape community is challenged by the problems of gangsterism, violence and drug abuse. Young children fall prey to drugrelated gang violence on a daily basis. Recently, Western Cape was challenged by the increase in Methamphetamine (Tik) abuse. The average age of patients, who reported Methamphetamine as their primary substance of abuse in 2004, was 20 years. Almost 60% of the patients were younger than 20 years. (MRC Fact Sheet, August 2004). Children in the Western Cape are now starting to take drugs and alcohol at a younger age than before. This statement has been proven by a survey that was conducted on drug and alcohol use among primary school children in the Cape Town Metropolitan area in One fifth of all primary school children have tried drugs. The average age of first starting to use was 12 years. Almost 14% of the clients at the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre (CTDCC) started taking drugs before the age of 13 (CTDCC Statistics, Unpublished). A study conducted in Cape Town schools in 1990 among grade 8 and 11 learners indicated that children are using drugs more frequently. The risk

3 behaviour identified among the learners was Cigarette, Alcohol (fairly constant use) and Cannabis use, which had almost doubled during the intervention period (Flisher, A, 1990). Children are using harder drugs. Since 2000, Heroin use increased significantly in Cape Town. During 1997, less than 1% of people seeking treatment in Cape Town had Heroin as their primary drug of abuse, by 2002 this had increased to just fewer than 7% (SACENDU Research Brief, Vol5 (2b), 2002). Alcohol remains the dominant substance of abuse in the Western Cape (SACENDU, update October 2004). Research conducted in Wellington showed the increased prevalence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) among the Grade 1 learners. Research has proved a strong link between drug use and HIV/AIDS. Risky sexual behaviour, such as engaging in multiple sexual partners and unprotected sex has been confirmed to spread HIV. The abuse of alcohol is increasingly being recognised as a key determinant of sexual risk behaviour and consequently, an indirect contributor to HIV transmission in sub- Saharan countries (Fritz, Woelk, Basset, McFarland, Routh, Tobaiwa & Stall, 2002). Injecting Drug Use (IDU) has also proved to spread HIV. Although the prevalent is still low it is an indication that it could explode in future. In concluding the nature and trends of drug abuse, it is important to remark that perhaps the greatest negative affect of drug and alcohol abuse is that it

4 slows down or stops emotional and psychological development, preventing people from reaching their potential. Added to this is the burden placed on society by health care and criminal Justice costs related to substance abuse, as well as the costs associated with decreased productivity in the workplace, increased HIV/AIDS transmission and domestic violence to name just a few. How should we deal with the above-mentioned drug problem in South Africa? The South African Cabinet adopted the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) in February This policy document acts as the barometer of time commitment and performance of the South African Government and its citizens in the field of Substance abuse. The main objective of the NDMP is to form a united front of all stakeholders in this province for joint action towards a society free of drug abuse and its related problems. The challenge of curbing substance abuse requires a coordinated, multi-pronged effort, including legal, health and socio-economic responses. A coordinating structure that will be able to coordinate all the efforts of all the various sectors needs to be established to ensure a constructed effort to combat the incidence of substance abuse. For this purpose the Provincial Substance Abuse Forum is being launched today, in terms of the NDMP and the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Dependency Act, No 20 of The composition of this forum should involve all role-players in the field of substance abuse: Treatment and Aftercare; Prevention and Education; Community Development; Legislation, Law enforcement, Policy making, Research and information Dissemination. In addition the business

5 community and any other structure interested in addressing substance abuse had to be allowed to participate. The main function of the Provincial Substance Abuse Forum is to strengthen member organizations in carrying out their existing functions relating to directly or indirectly addressing substance abuse and to keep substance abuse high on the public and political agendas of the province. This should be done through coordinating and formulating a strategic plan of action for the province. Indeed, today we are paying tribute to these provincial initiatives and efforts. The Forum should further encourage networking and an effective flow of information between members of the forum; encourage member organisations to contribute to and remain abreast of research and developments in the field of substance abuse prevention and treatment; establish and or strengthen the Local Drug Action Committees (LDACs) in their tasks; and encourage accepted prevention strategies in communities. The chairpersons of the LDACs must represent that structure at the Provincial Substance Abuse Forum. The Central Drug Authority as the statutory coordinating body in the country for substance abuse issues will liaise and interact both with the Provincial Substance Abuse Forums and Local Drug Action Committees (LDACs), in answering to Parliament on the implementation of the NDMP. Now that we know what the extent of the drug problem is and have a sense of the functioning of the Provincial Substance Abuse Forum, the question

6 remains on how we can put mechanism in action or phrased differently, what can be expected from us: First of all, a commitment to become an integral part of the solution to the substance abuse problem in the Western Cape. Secondly, to avail ourselves and our staff to actively participate in the activities of the Provincial Substance Abuse Forum in order to ensure effective strategic planning and the co-ordination of activities. Ladies and Gentlemen, rest assured that it is not expected from stakeholders to necessarily become involved in additional activities, but to continue with their normal functions in the combating of substance abuse, only in a more structured and coordinated manner. Honourable, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that collectively we can make a difference. Our efforts in the past were much appreciated, but we need to admit that our successes were limited. In fact, the impression gained was that the substance abuse problem was getting worse in this province. Lets unite in our efforts and ensure a better life for all our people and especially our youth (our future leaders). I thank you for your attention

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