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Subst Use Misuse. 2010 Nov;45(13):2221-43. doi: 10.3109/10826084.2010.481594.

Illicit drug use and treatment in South Africa: a review.

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  • 1Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa.


This review synthesizes available epidemiological data on current drug use and substance user treatment admissions in South Africa since 1994, and how changes in the political, economic, and social structures within South Africa, both before and after Apartheid, has made the country more vulnerable to drug use. Based on national surveys, current use of cannabis ranged among adolescents from 2% to 9% and among adults it was 2%, cocaine/crack (0.3%), mandrax/sedatives (0.3%), club drugs/amphetamine-type stimulants (0.2%), opiates (0.1%), and hallucinogens (0.1%). The use of primary illicit substance at admission to South African drug user treatment centers was cannabis 16.9%, methamphetamine (tik) 12.8%, crack/cocaine 9.6%, cannabis and mandrax 3.4%, heroin/opiates 9.2%, and prescription and OTC drugs 2.6%. An increase in substance user treatment admissions has increased. While the prevalence of illicit drug use in South Africa is relatively low compared to the United States and Australia, prevention and intervention policies need to be designed to reduce these levels by targeting the more risky subpopulations identified from this review.

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