Recovered Users Share Stories of Hope and Recovery

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Justice Malapane

Recovered drug users shared their moving positive stories with delegates in attendance at the three-day National Summit on Substance Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which commenced today in Boksburg.

Appreciating interventions from the Department of Social Development and Civil Society Organisations for ensuring that they are clean from drug use. Recovered users shared their experiences as mothers, siblings, and recovered users.

Presenting her true story to delegates, emotional user, Felicity Buys, said that she was hooked into drug abuse to the extent of even selling her body for sex in exchange for money to buy drugs. “I even had to use my body for sex work so I can buy drugs but what gives me courage is that I am now clean and able to motivate others to live drug-free lives. I am unemployed as I only receive a Child Support Grant to feed my children and this social grant is not enough hence need a work opportunity so I can be able to support myself,” said Felicity.

Thabang Thobejane, from Mamelodi, in Pretoria, said that he has been in recovery for more than 15 years. “I encourage young people to focus on sporting activities and other positive things so they may live far away from drugs. My concern is that there are no employment opportunities, and it is difficult as some of us previously disappointed our families. Now they are looking upon us to make a difference,” said Thabang.

According to Lydia Thomas, the affected mother from Eldorado Park, Johannesburg, shared the hardship of living with a son on substance. “My son obtained a grade 12 Certificate with a Diploma pass, it pains me to see him stealing from himself and family members in this state. I am here to ask for help for him,” she said.

Highlighting the plight of the Western Cape, recovered user, Gavin Fortuin, spoke about his journey in active addiction, focusing on the positive work he is doing through youth development and training. Amongst his achievements, he co-authored a book with international partners titled – “The Power of Mental Wealth.” Gavin also encouraged men to speak up and take their rightful place within the family unit and society, closing with a quote, “Sweet are the uses of adversity,” by William Shakespeare.

Addressing the summit, the Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, said that what strengthens the intent of the summit is that the Cabinet recently approved the proposal by Social Development to re-establish the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Substance Abuse, a victory for the country. “The IMC would assist with mitigating the impact of the risks associated with alcohol and substance abuse amongst the youth, children, women, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, and families in all their manifestations, including, child-headed families. Disadvantaged persons in vulnerable communities; occupational groups at risk, such as artists, athletes, and professionals; as well as key populations, like the LGBTQI+ community, sex workers, and migrant workers,” said Minister Zulu.

According to Gauteng Premier, Mr Panyaza Lesufi, South Africans must be radical and innovative as the country embarks upon a multi-sectoral approach to addressing substance abuse challenges within communities. The Premier further indicated that South Africans should be honest in admitting that the country is losing the battle against the scourge of
substance abuse. “We cannot continue issuing liquor licenses and overlook the responsibility of capacity building and monitoring of liquor traders. As we are irritated by Zama Zamas (illegal miners) in the mining industry, we must also do the same with drug lords who are dominating our streets and communities,” Premier Lesufi said.

The Premier further emphasised that the youth age cohort is a highly contested terrain and education must be used as a powerful and influential tool to impact the mindsets of children from Grade R as we cannot afford to be a society that glorifies alcohol and drugs. He also encouraged all partners to play their part to mitigate the influential role of the media, advertising industry, and social media platforms that portray drugs and sex as a way of life.

The three-day summit seeks to amongst others, evaluate the 2019 – 2024 National Drug Master Plan, inform the policy on drugs and substance use, and share information on sustainable economic opportunities for unemployed youth.

In addition to facilitating discussions among stakeholders on harmful substance use, misuse, and abuse, as mandated by the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act 2008, the summit will also consider a harmonised way of implementing demand, supply, and harm reduction in line with the NDMP. Such will be realised by focusing on several aspects such as support policy harmonisation between health, social security, and justice sectors, to support public health approaches for people who use drugs, people in correctional settings, and other key populations.

Central Drug Authority Chairperson, Mrs Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, said that; under the theme; “Towards sustainable, coordinated, and impactful strategies for national drug and substance use in South Africa,” the expectation is that the summit resolutions must be implementable and “should interrogate if policies and strategies to stimulate economic growth are effective and impactful on the lives of recovering users.”

The 3rd National Summit on Substance Abuse and Illicit Trafficking continues tomorrow with breakaway sessions focusing on the following topics:

  • Drug Demand Reduction (DDR) / Evidence-based prevention and treatment focus;
  • Drug Supply Reduction (DSR) Focus;
  • Access to substances for Medical Use and New Psychotropic Substances;
  • Leadership, Accountability and Governance;
  • Research Development, Monitoring and Evaluation, and
  • Economic Development.

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