Overdose can cause serious health problems and death

On Friday, August 31, Wedge Gardens celebrated International Overdose Day.

The treatment centre dedicated its lecturers and workshops to raising awareness of how easily a drug overdose can happen.

Wedge Gardens is Sanca-affiliated, and both the Sanca National Office and the Sanca National Academy of Learning, are based at Wedge Gardens, which is easily accessible from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni.

Sanca and its affiliates want to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death, as well as acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends of those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

Members of the public were asked to wear silver on the day to show their support of #InternationalOverdoseDay2018.

Also read: “Drugs have led me nowhere. The only thing you will find in this dark valley are the skeletons of those who came before you.”

The United Nations World Drug report of 2014 reported that 7.06 per cent of South Africans abuse narcotics of some kind.

One in 14 people is a regular user.

This equals 3.74 million people.

Over the past 12 years, there has been a 35 per cent increase in admissions to the 30 Sanca-affiliated treatment centres, reflecting the increasing national substance abuse levels in South Africa.

Sanca treated 24 152 clients in the two-year period from April 1, 2016, to 31 March 2018. The majority of the clients (75per cent ) were treated at outpatient centres and 25 per cent at inpatient treatment centres.

Most people who seek treatment at Sanca centres are aged between 22 and 35. The second largest group is 14 to 17 years old. Alarmingly, there is an increase of 3 per cent in the number of children aged between four and 13 who seek treatment.

Also read: Youngsters unite against drugs and abuse

Sanca said that the high number of youngsters abusing substances is extremely worrying because the brain only reaches maturity at 26 years of age and before that, the risks of permanent structural changes to the brain are increased.

Cannabis is the main substance being abused (between 37 per cent and 38 per cent); then alcohol (between 19 per cent and 21 per cent); heroin/opiates (14 per cent) and ‘other mixed’, which includes whoonga/nyaope (14 per cent).

Many people assume that overdose is only relevant to illegal drugs, but people can overdose on prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

The categories of OTC medications most likely to be abused are painkillers and anti-inflammatories; heartburn and indigestion medications; cough and cold medications; weight loss laxatives, diuretics and slimming tablets and sleep aids.

Many people don’t realise that most painkillers and cold and cough medications contains codeine, which is derived from the opioid family (like heroin and morphine).

If used as instructed, it will benefit the person but if abused, it could cause dependency and have harmful consequences.

Also read: Proactive approach to drugs

The dangers of OTC and prescription abuse:

•Long-term use can lead to adverse effects and have serious side effects.

•OTC can interact and interfere with prescription medications.

•Aspirin, for example, interacts with blood thinners, antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

•Pseudoephedrine found in cough and cold medications interfere with anti-depressants or stimulants used for ADHD.

•OTC laxatives (sodium phosphate) can cause dehydration and abnormal levels of electrolytes in the blood, leading to kidney failure.

Chronic use could lead to tolerance, physical dependency or even addiction.

Some of the long-term effects are kidney and liver damage, seizures, heart rhythm abnormalities, stroke, ulcers, gastrointestinal disorders, gallstones, chronic constipation, depression, constant rebound headaches, neurological problems, psychiatric problems and even death in some cases.

Thousands of people die each year from drug-related causes, including suicides when intoxicated and in motor vehicle accidents due to drunk driving.

Substance use disorders are dangerous and over time, the person develops a serious problem. The cycle of compulsive drug use can only be broken through professional assistance.

Sanca encourages members of the public to share any story of loss on the Sanca National Directorate Facebook page or on your Facebook or Twitter account.

ONLINE

SANCA National: 011 892 3829

Whatsapp: 076 535 1701

Website: www.sancanational.info

Wedge Gardens: 011 430 0320 / 071 690 4942

Website: www.wedgegardens.co.za

  AUTHOR
Charmaine Slater
Senior journalist

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