A Global Perspective on Prevention of Addictions and Addictive Behaviours | EAPA-SA

The average person in South Africa consumes 20 litres of alcohol per year and this is one of the highest rates in the world. The incidence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in our country is one of the highest in the World (Stein, Ellis, Meintjes and Thomas, 2012). The average age of drug dependency in South Africa is 12 years old and decreasing. The South African youth are particularly vulnerable to the experimentation and long-term use of substances (whether it be alcohol, illicit drugs, or even over-the-counter and prescription medication). This was echoed in the AB InBev Foundation commissioned Youth Survey indicating that almost 50% of adolescents have drunk alcohol before turning 18 and that 6 percent of children as young as 12 are drinking. 

“The average person in South Africa consumes 20 litres of alcohol per year and this is one of the highest rates in the world.”

Source: https://www.sancanational.info/

In an article entitled, The South African War on Substance Abuse, The South African Society of Psychiatrists states: Abuse of alcohol and drugs causes a multi-billion-rand dent in the South African economy every year, but the remedy is stymied by insufficient funding and unwillingness to accept the latest global thinking on treatment of addiction as a medical condition.

Source: https://www.sasop.co.za/sa-war-on-substance-abuse  

“South Africa has no regular representative surveys on substance abuse.”

An article published by Recovery Direct, entitled The Staggering Stats on Addiction in South Africa, states, “South Africa has no regular representative surveys on substance abuse. There has only been one nationally representative epidemiological study of alcohol, drug and psychiatric disorders, carried out between 2002 and 2004 and mainly to diagnose mental disorders in adults…The distinct lack of information due to a lack of legislation in combination with the nature of the issue means that absolute statistics on the scale of South Africa’s addiction problems is not reasonably measurable by official sources’ head-count.”

Source: https://www.recoverydirect.co.za/staggering-stats-addiction-south-africa/

There are several global and local organisations – those who act nationally, regionally or globally – who are committed to a reduction in the incidence of alcohol and substance abuse, and combatting a rise in addictive behaviours. Exploring their mandate and activities, from local bodies to regional and multinational organisations, we find out more about who some of these entities are, and highlight the focus of their activities around Africa and South Africa.


The national issue of addiction and addictive behaviours at a local level



SANCA has 29 branches across all nine South African provinces. It is a non-governmental organisation with two major goals – the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug dependence. These objectives are achieved through the provision of highly effective primary and secondary prevention services, as well as comprehensive treatment programmes for chemically dependent people and their families. SANCA’s goals include:

  • Heightening public awareness
  • Enlightening public and private sectors
  • Preventing and reducing chemical substance dependence
  • Providing treatment for dependents and families
  • Advocating restriction of availability
  • Offering specialised training and education programmes
  • Undertaking and encouraging research
  • Mobilising and utilising community resources
  • Empowering communities through prevention programmes


SANCA’s Academy of Learning

The SANCA training academy ensures that the services provided within SANCA are based on knowledge and skills through accredited training programmes. The academy utilises experienced programme developers who have designed and implemented national treatment programmes for the National Department of Social Development as well as for corporate partners.

  • SANCA National is an accredited training provider with HWSETA and offers a 12-month Further Education and Training Certificate: Counselling course for learners, to provide basic counselling in Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and HIV/AIDS for any person passionate about working with others, and who has at least a Grade 11 secondary education. 
  • There are two Key-to-Life – basic and advanced – online courses developed for SANCA staff and members of the community to gain knowledge and skills on substance use disorders. 
  • A five-day Power of Purpose course has been designed for professionals and is accredited for 25 CPD points from SACSSP. 
  • The SANCA Treatment Model training course is also accredited for 6 CPD points with SACSSP. All training data is captured and maintained on an effective Soweto Care System database to record training initiatives.

Upcoming partnership project in 2021

In a press release by Distell in September 2021 it was announced that Distell, SANCA and Canadian-based behavioural science experts, The Decision Lab, have joined forces to investigate the root causes of alcohol abuse and develop evidence-based, measurable behaviour change programmes to address it. This project will be managed by SANCA in collaboration with law-enforcement agencies such as the SAPS and the JMPD, the Department of Health, Gauteng Liquor Board, universities and local government, underpinned by the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP).

“Distell, SANCA and Canadian-based behavioural science experts, The Decision Lab, have joined forces to investigate the root causes of alcohol abuse…”

The findings from the behavioural change programme will be reported in a peer-reviewed publication in due course to enable others to build on the success of the programme, learn from any challenges encountered, and adapt to other contexts with pace.

Source: https://www.distell.co.za/newsroom/sanca-and-distell-launch-science-based-research-programme-to-combat-alcohol-abuse/ 



The most recent Central Drug Authority Board was inaugurated in May 2021.  In her address at the inauguration ceremony, Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, said: 

“The CDA is the Government’s principal advisory body, established to advise government and the stakeholders to prevent and reduce the burden of alcohol and substance abuse, including the burden of diseases that are contributed by the use of these substances.”

“One of the many Government’s responses in this field of substance abuse, is the new National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) 2019 – 2024, which was approved by Cabinet in October 2019. This NDMP is tailored to address various challenges existing in the country. This document is the country’s blueprint and strategy for preventing and reducing alcohol and substance abuse and related social and economic consequences on South African society.  Further, the NDMP advocates for collaborating, balanced and evidence-based approach interventions to inform our policies and programmes”

“One of the key mandates of the CDA is to support the Provincial Substance Abuse Forums at Provincial level and the Local Drug Action Committees at Municipal level as a way to enhance existing community initiatives with specific knowledge and skills to manage their own prevention work at grassroots level.”


“As members of the CDA, you are expected to: 

  • Provide advice on emerging trends in alcohol and substance abuse
  • Advise on effective, research and evidence-based prevention programmes
  • Develop partnerships with community organisations to develop effective prevention responses Build a strong coordination mechanism to fight the scourge of substance abuse
  • Promote buy-in of leadership in various Government spheres – Local, Provincial and National.
  • CDA must hold relevant Departments and leadership accountable on their fight against substance abuse”

Source: https://www.gov.za/speeches/minister-lindiwe-zulu-inauguration-central-drug-authority-board-28-may-2021-0000 


The continent’s issue of addiction and addictive behaviours at a regional level

“…UNODC’s Strategic Vision for Africa 2030 is outlined in a mission to provide more safety to Africa’s people, government and institutions from drugs, crime, corruption, terrorism and illicit financial flows.”


While it is a multinational organisation, in response to Africa’s challenges, UNODC’s Strategic Vision for Africa 2030 is outlined in a mission to provide more safety to Africa’s people, government and institutions from drugs, crime, corruption, terrorism and illicit financial flows. Their Vision 2030 seeks to strengthen crime prevention, enhance justice, address organised crime, ensure a balanced response to drugs, improve the rule of law and bolster resilience. Building on decades of partnership and engagement with African countries, they endeavour to work towards these goals by focusing on a whole-of-society approach and inclusion of the most vulnerable and marginalised populations. 

UNODC Strategic Vision for Africa 2030

To enable tangible and sustainable progress in response to Africa’s most pressing challenges, UNODC commits to intensifying their focus in five investment areas, to meet Agenda 2030-driven goals and 54 objectives.



UNODC World Drug Report 2021

In 2021, UNODC has created a series of workbooks that make up their World Drug Report 2021. This covers each region in the world, including Africa. 

Source:  https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/wdr2021.html 

The world’s issue of addiction and addictive behaviours at a global level



The World Health Organisation (WHO) is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system and is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters. In addition to the international drug conventions, WHO ‘s work related to narcotics and psychoactive substances is guided by the WHO Constitution and by the organisation’s governing bodies and aims to:   ⬪ Articulate ethical and evidence‐based policy options ⬪ Provide leadership on matters critical to health and to engage in partnerships where joint action is needed  ⬪ Set norms and standards, and promote and monitor their implementation ⬪ Shape the research agenda and stimulate the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge ⬪ Provide technical support, catalyse change and build sustainable institutional capacity ⬪ Monitor the health situation and assess health trends.

Source: https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/drug_role_mandate.pdf 


In 2010, a Global Strategy and Health Assembly Resolution signified the commitment of WHO Member States – of which South Africa is one- to sustained action at all levels – global, regional and national – to meet the objectives of Sustainable Development Goals 2030, Target 3.5. This includes the objective of strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including the harmful use of alcohol, and reflects the broader impact of harmful alcohol use on health beyond noncommunicable diseases – in areas such as mental health, violence, road traffic injuries and infectious diseases.


Within this strategy, ten areas for national action were cited as:

  1. leadership, awareness and commitment;
  2. health services’ response;
  3. community action;
  4. drink-driving policies and countermeasures;
  5. availability of alcohol;
  6. marketing of alcoholic beverages;
  7. pricing policies;
  8. reducing the negative consequences of drinking and alcohol intoxication;
  9. reducing the public health impact of illicit alcohol and informally produced alcohol;
  10. monitoring and surveillance.


WHO Third Forum on Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behaviours (FADAB)

In June 2021, The World Health Organisation (WHO) held their third biannual Forum on Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behaviours (FADAB), in the context of accelerating public health actions and addressing new challenges during the pandemic.  We look forward to reporting back any interesting findings to you from FADAB when a report is published down the line.

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy from Pexels