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Company Wellness Solutions
Substance Abuse Awareness Day

Fighting The Prison Of Addiction

Each year on 26 June, people around the world get together to highlight the dangers of drug use and substance abuse. It’s a day to spread the message and educate the public at large, and the youth in particular, about the harm done by the illegal drug trade and the issues surrounding addiction.

Drugs are defined as anything that changes the way our body functions. This includes illegal drugs like cocaine and tik; legal drugs like tobacco, alcohol and prescription medication; over-the-counter medication like cough syrup; and substances like glue and turpentine. Anything, in fact, that is used to get high.

In South Africa, drug abuse has reached exceptionally high levels. According to Recovery Direct, at least 15% of South Africans have a drug problem. This means it’s likely you know, or know of, someone who is struggling with addiction.

Addiction can happen to anyone, no matter their background or their age. As many of us know from tragic experience, addiction affects not only the addicts but family and friends too. It is families that often bear the brunt and shoulder the financial, legal and emotional burden of addiction.


Is someone close to you an addict? Here are a few words of advice on what to do and how to cope:

  • Understand the signs of addiction: These may include physical changes, like bloodshot eyes or tremors, behavioral changes like poor hygiene or changes in appetite, and psychological changes like increased anxiety and mood swings.
  • Educate yourself: Knowledge is power. Get information about addiction in general and the addiction that your family member or friend is suffering with. Understand the addict’s disease process. Look for answers to question such as: What is addiction?, Why does it happen to some people and not others? how can it be treated? This will put you in a better position to offer help.
  • Show compassion. Addiction is a disease like cancer – no one chooses to become an addict. There is no point in casting blame or threatening the person. Don’t give lectures – its unlikely that they are listening. The first response should be a willingness to understand and to help. If you show compassion, you will gain trust which is crucial for getting the person on the long road to recovery.
  • Don’t let yourself be manipulated. While you are willing to give love and be compassionate, the addicted person needs to be responsible and accountable. Addicts will do anything to feed their addiction – this includes stealing, lying, and blaming. Learn how to say no, learn not to enable addictive behaviour, and set clear boundaries. Your job is to support, not rescue. If they are forced to face the consequences of their actions, they are more likely to seek help.
  • Get support. You need to be realistic – expect difficulties and a long, slow road ahead with numerous bumps. This is no quick fix. You need as much support as your loved one. You are going through untold pain and trauma and you need help. There are many organisations out there who provide free support to friends and family while the person with an addiction problem finds the road to recovery.


Get help. Start by finding a councilor that you can talk to. (Hyperlink To Company Wellness Counselling Site:  CWS EAP – Your Employee Assistance Programme

For further support and information, contact Al-Anon, Alcoholics Anonymous South Africa or The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).