Legendary musician Hugh Masekela battled drug and alcohol addiction for years, leading him to establish the Musicians and Artists Assistance Programme of SA (Maapsa) in partnership with other artists. Masekela died in January after battling cancer. REUTERS

Addiction experts and sufferers are lamenting the disease not being taken seriously despite statistics showing that at least 20% of South Africans are affected.

They blamed the apparent inaction on the lack of will power, scant resources in the public sector and high costs of private rehabilitation.
Dr Prakash Naidoo, an addiction specialist, said it first needs to be recognised as a medical disease and treated as such if any sizable progress is to be made.

“If it has to be treated at all, first recognise that it’s a medical and lifestyle disease that’s no different from diabetes. There are genetic, psychological and sociological factors that lead to either causation or aggravation,” said Naidoo.

“We’ve got to get better, more effective, more modern treatment modalities.
“We need better utilisation of the funds we have currently,” he said.
Clinical psychologist and senior lecturer Dr Kgamadi Kometsi echoed Naidoo’s sentiments.

“Invariably, rehabilitation programmes must provide a multidisciplinary treatment, with different professionals being responsible for different aspects of the programme.
“This includes medical practitioners providing pharmacological treatment; psychologists providing psychotherapy and counselling; and social workers providing a psychosocial intervention especially with the person’s family. The bottom line is that it is very hard to treat addiction successfully outside of a structured environment that is provided by admission to a rehabilitation centre,” said Komesti.

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Gauteng Department of Social Development spokesperson Mbangwa Xaba said substance abuse was recognised as one of the greatest health and social problems in the country as it has wide-ranging consequences.

He said prevention and treatment of substance abuse was complex and requires a multifaceted approach.
“We are encouraged that 4648 of the 1.9million that we reached have completed their treatment and are now clean. We are optimistic that in 2019, 2540 of the planned 718843 will be rescued from the clutches of substance abuse.

“In the current financial year we have budgeted R281million for this programme. “We will continue to lead and implement an integrated programme in all regions as well as establish a halfway house per region,” said Xaba.