Mitchell’s Plain rehab expert Shuaib Hoosain says adolescents are particularly at risk if the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill becomes law. He says the legalization of cannabis will give kids easier access to cannabis and this carries both lifestyle and health risks.
Moves towards legalizing cannabis is having an adverse effect on adolescents prone to substance abuse. That’s the view of Shuaib Hoosain, treatment manager at the the Sultan Bahu Centre, a rehab facility in Mitchell’s Plain in the Western Cape.
Hoosain said youngsters were increasingly of the view that cannabis consumption was legal and acceptable and warned that the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill could “threaten the lifestyle and health of young people as they would have easy access to cannabis which is often used as an entry level drug”.
In an interview with the Weekend Argus on 18 September 2022, Hoosain said “the face of substance use has been altered by the decriminalisation of cannabis which has been misconstrued by many as legalisation.”
“Current legislation specifies that the substance may be cultivated in one’s private residence and even specifies the number of plants and size, and that it may be consumed in the privacy of one’s home.
“This is primarily the exclusive preserve of adult consumers who can legally appreciate the dynamics of cannabis use and the risks that accompany it.
“What we have noted is that adolescents are under the impression that decriminalisation of the substance applies to them and invariably engage in its use.”
The Weekend Argus reported that the 2022 South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (SACENDU) revealed that in the Western Cape, “Tik” has overtaken cannabis as the primary substance of abuse. It reported that feedback from 36 specialist treatment centres between the January and June 2021, showed that ‘Tik’ accounted for 35% of people seeking help, cannabis for 24%, alcohol for 18% and heroin for 7%. These four categories accounted for 84 percent of all admissions.
Overall, 2 433 people were treated across all 36 treatment centres in the first half of 2021.
Hoosain, who has been helping substance abusers for almost two decades, says he’s noted into the changing world of addiction and the evolution of drug usage, price changes, legislative trends and health risks.
“Quite surprisingly, according to the UNODC 2022 report there has been a drop in the prices of drugs specifically cocaine,” Hoosain said.
“With the Afghan and Iraq wars in the early 2000’s transport routes have opened up since then and Africa become the midpoint springboard to Europe and the United States.
“As a result of this, drugs have been easily transported through our permeable borders by land and via our seaports. With an increasing amount of illicit substances available, the price decreases.
“To make prices even more affordable in sub economic areas, dealers cut the substances with household adulterants.”
He said “what is of more concern is the increasing incidence of intravenous substances used in the various Metros of the Western Cape.”
“These individuals are less likely to enter treatment services due to the stigma attached to intravenous use, the fear of acute withdrawal symptoms, and the concerning low price of heroin which can currently be obtained for as little as R15 per section.
“It also becomes apparent that heroin of this grade is not fit for injectable use and that our public health system will in doubt see an increasing number of individuals seeking care for complications as a result of infections, poisoning and other ailments.”
Hoosain said with their centres had the tools to help individuals from all walks of life: “As a result, the organisation has not only treated over 9 500 clients, their respective families and support structures, but also identified the need for accessible services at all times.
“To this end, a partnership has been established with a private company, VR (Virtual Reality) Sobriety World which has resulted in the evidence-based treatment program being transitioned to a persistent online setting accessible from any computer terminal with access to the internet, making treatment available anywhere and everywhere.”
He added that the average age of users seeking help remained the same over the past two decades.
“The ages of individuals accessing treatment services have remained relatively the same over the 17 years; typically the average age of individuals accessing services is around 31-years-old.
“Incidentally the youngest addict consulted was six-years-old at the time and we had to notify the Department of Social Development.”