Excessive drug and alcohol use, also called substance use disorder, refers to the repeated and ongoing usage of legal and illegal substances such as tobacco, alcohol, dagga, and other drugs.
Adolescence and young adulthood is a time when many people experiment with alcohol and other substances. But young people often do not realise the dangers that these substances hold for their health.
General symptoms of substance use disorder to look out for:
Substance use disorder and addiction have many potential negative physical and mental health effects for the users, such as:
With students, substance use disorder has also been linked to declining grades, high absenteeism and school dropouts, as well as involvement in crime and gang-related activities.
Substance use in students
Substance use disorder may be common among young people suffering from mental health conditions. Young people experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses may turn to drugs or alcohol to find temporary comfort.
These substances are also sometimes used as a coping mechanism for those enduring a great deal of stress or hardship, such as experiencing troubles at home or at school, or losing a loved one.
Using drugs or alcohol to deal with difficult feelings or symptoms of mental illness is called ‘self-medication’. However, it can make existing mental health problems worse.
Treatment of substance use disorder
With the right treatment and support, substance use disorder and addiction can be treated. Based on your individual needs and the substance/s involved, the treatment process may be comprised of some or all of the following aspects:
If you or someone you know is affected by substance use disorder or addiction, seek the help of a licensed medical professional, or contact the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA).