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Government moots controversial drugs plan

By Lunar Loops, Jun 29, 2006 | |
  1. Lunar Loops
    More common sense breaking out in South Africa. This from www.iol.co.za (http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=14&click_id=125&art_id=qw1151396644168B213) :

    Government moots controversial drugs plan
    June 27 2006 at 10:35AM [SIZE=+1][/SIZE]By Wendell Roelf

    With children as young as ten experimenting with drugs, authorities have mooted potentially controversial measures in a revised blueprint to combat the cancer of abuse.

    Needle-exchange programmes to help reduce the spread of HIV infection among intravenous drug users, and methadone maintenance treatment for heroin addicts are suggested in the national drug master plan.

    "The focus is on first reducing the harm associated with drug use, rather than on reducing or eliminating drug use per se. When used in secondary and tertiary prevention, the harm reduction approach should be complemented with supply and demand reduction," reads part of the draft national drug master plan, drawn up under the aegis of the Central Drug Authority (CDA).

    David Bayever, acting chairperson of the CDA, said despite the fact that needle-exchange programmes were internationally accepted, they had not been introduced in South Africa for fear of sending the wrong message.

    "We need to look at the pros and cons. While it can be misread that we are condoning the use of needles as long as they are clean, this is not the case. We don't want needles to be used at all, but at the same time we recognise that having clean needles could reduce the spread of HIV/Aids and other diseases," said Bayever.

    On methadone, Bayever said currently the Medicines and Related Substance Control Act subjected the use of methadone to strict control.

    Methadone could only be used in strictly controlled environments, such as hospitals, where the person administering it was a specialist.

    Bayever admitted that some private drug rehabilitation centres were using methadone-related substances, not governed by legislation.
    Methadone and related substances do not guarantee success in treating addiction.

    South Africa's second five-year master plan, for 2005-10, focuses on the best practices.

    It sets out the country's policies and priorities, and emphasises an intensification of the anti-drug campaign by community participation through establishing provincial forums and local drug action committees.

    "The scourge of substance abuse continues to ravage our communities, families and particularly our youth, the more so as it goes hand in hand with poverty, crime... escalation of chronic diseases and premature death," wrote Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya in the foreword.

    The master plan acknowledges tobacco and alcohol as the "gateway" to the use of other drugs, with substances abused divided into three categories, according to popularity.

    In South Africa, the most common are alcohol and tobacco, followed by cannabis and the cannabis-mandrax combination, known as a "white pipe".

    "Considerable abuse of over-the-counter and prescription medicines, cough mixtures and slimming tablets, as well as solvents (especially glue) also causes concern," reads the report.

    It mentions the unregulated use of home-brewed alcohol, which could contain poisonous additives, as another problem area.

    In the second category - which includes cocaine powder, LSD and ecstasy - crack cocaine ("rocks") and methamphetamine ("tik") are listed for possible inclusion in the first category.

    In the third category are substances such as opium, the date-rape drug Rohypnol, Wellconal and methcathinone ("khat").

    "The health and socio-economic consequences of substance use, abuse and dependency are a great concern, the more so as the abuse of alcohol and trafficking in drugs undermine democracy and good governance and have a negative impact on the environment," reads the plan.

    The master plan identifies nine priority areas N including crime, youth, research, international involvement and capacity building.

    "Specific treatment services have to be provided for young people, as their needs are different from those of adults... Major gaps still exist with regard to intervention programmes for the youth, especially in rural areas."

    Acknowledging that a totally drug-free society was unlikely, the plan recognises the role of communication in determining the success of the master plan.

    "Previous drug awareness efforts failed to reach their target audiences because of inappropriate, viewer-insensitive presentations."

    It said there was a "great need" to train doctors, nurses, social workers and psychologists on substance abuse and other addictions.

    It proposed a professional licensing or qualifications board be established to devise standards for skills training in the various aspects of addiction management.

    "In the long term, however, the failure to address substance abuse adequately could jeopardise the attainment of real reconstruction and development in South Africa... Substance abuse is a unique social evil, and needs special attention," concludes the authors of the master plan. - Sapa

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