Alcohol still the curse of the Cape

Alcohol is by far the most widely abused substance in the province and also accounts for 57 percent of road accidents, far higher than the rest of the country.

These figures were part of a collaborative report by the Medical Research Council, the Humans Sciences Research Council, and the University of Cape Town on substance abuse trends in the Western Cape, which reviewed studies conducted since 2000.

Professor Charles Parry of the MRC said Friday urgent intervention was needed to curb the misuse of alcohol.

"We need to counter advertising by the industry. Alcohol ads have to be restricted to late night when children are not watching TV, there must be signage at the point of sale on the harm caused by abusing alcohol, communities need to enforce the closure times of outlets in their areas, including shebeens, and there should be an absolute ban on novice drivers drinking and driving for at least three years."

Parry said the trauma units should steer drunken patients to intervention programmes.

He also wants to see the establishment of an alcohol health promotion foundation, to be funded by the liquor industry.

It could send messages on the harmful effects of alcohol misuse, offer alternative enterprises to shebeen owners, and run intervention programmes in communities.

The collaborative report was presented recently at a substance-abuse conference hosted in Cape Town by the provincial departments of health and social development.

It showed that alcohol remained a significant substance of abuse in the province but was not often a key focal point for prevention and treatment services.

This was despite the fact that alcohol abuse placed a tremendous burden on the health and social welfare sectors in both urban and rural areas.

Studies, including an HSRC household survey, pointed to higher levels of problem drinking among coloured communities. The research council said 18 percent of coloureds abuse alcohol compared to 11 percent of blacks, 7 percent of whites and 1 percent of Indians.

Cape Town has more alcohol-related violent deaths than other metros in the country, according to the latest National Injury Mortality Surveillance System report. Drunkenness was responsible for 59 percent of violent deaths in the city, compared to 47 percent of violent deaths in Durban and Johannesburg, and 51 percent in Pretoria.

Cape Town also has the dubious distinction of being the city with the highest number of alcohol-related road deaths. A staggering 59 percent of road accidents were due to alcohol, compared to 47 percent of road deaths in both Durban and Pretoria.

According to the report, alcohol use is also strongly associated with risky sexual risk behaviour. The outcomes of studies conducted on HIV prevalence, substance abuse and associated high-risk practices over the past eight years, all echo the same concerns: the need for interventions to address the growing substance abuse problem and its links to risky sexual behaviour.

The report says there are not enough treatment centres for women, blacks, rural dwellers and poor people.

"With increasing pressure to treat young methamphetamine-using clients, it is highly likely that access to treatment for older alcohol-dependent persons has become increasingly difficult in the Western Cape," the reports says.

The Demographic and Health Survey reported that binge drinking at weekends was higher among women than men, but 25 percent of men and 6 percent of women in the Western Cape consumed alcohol in a "hazardous or harmful manner".

The Western Cape has one of the highest rates of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world.

source: Saturday Argus



  1. My take on why alcoholics don't seek treatment....!A0D71E1614E8DBF8!572.entry

    Watch wrap on URL

    on November 9, 2008 at 11:38 AM

  2. Sri said,

    Easy availability of alcohol in every store is one of the primary cause of increased consumption. There must be regulation on the kinds of store that may stock up alcohol so that youngsters may not just pick up anywhere and drink in cars or public places.

    on November 10, 2008 at 7:44 AM

  3. Tracy Pierre said,

    This also depends on the person. If he doesn't know how to control himself, then accidents are more likely to happen. Discipline is one of the keys to lessen accidents on the road.

    Tracy Pierre

    on November 28, 2011 at 8:06 AM