UKZN Hosts Webinar on Drug and Substance Abuse Prevention
UKZN’s HIV and AIDS Programme hosted a virtual dialogue on the prevention of drug and substance abuse to educate the public on the harmful effects of such abuse.
Dr Rosh Subrayen, a qualified social worker and the Disability Support Unit Co-ordinator for the Edgewood campus focused on the link between substance abuse, mental health and HIV and AIDS. She noted that mental health challenges and substance abuse can increase the risk of HIV infection and complicate the management of HIV and AIDS treatment.
Subrayen identified the psychosocial and economic barriers that hamper individuals from seeking healthcare, noting that stigma is a central challenge. Markers used to identify stigma include feeling unworthy, ostracised, powerless, hopeless, voiceless, isolated and excluded.
Solutions highlighted by Subrayen included screening for and treating mental health issues and substance use disorders to prevent HIV infections; educating the community about the links between these factors and social connectedness.
Ms Candice McCain a counselling psychologist at the Howard College campus examined some of the impacts of drug and substance abuse and the consequences associated with HIV and AIDS. Highlighting the different types of substances, she focused on the four main causes of substance abuse, namely, induced euphoria, to calm or relieve pain, enhance performance and to increase social functioning.
McCain added that, ‘Individuals under the age of 25 are more prone to risky and impulsive behaviour; this is because their brains are still growing. Our brains only become fully developed at the age of 25, so if you’re taking substances from adolescence through to your 20s your developing brain is more susceptible to lasting damage.’ She urged students to contact UKZN’s toll free helpline on 0800 800 017 for support and counselling.
UKZN alumnus and former peer educator, Mr Anele Mkila focused on recreational activities that can steer students away from substance abuse. He highlighted the need for community awareness campaigns in schools, libraries and churches and noted that religious entities, rehabilitation groups and local support groups are important social structures in dealing with substance abuse. ‘COVID-19 has exposed us to substance abuse because as social beings we aren’t used to being isolated,’ Mkila said.
Professor Fikile Mazibuko, Acting Senior Director for the Student Services Division, thanked the panellists and all those in attendance for engaging in the dialogue. She emphasised the importance of non-judgemental and supportive approaches, meaningful interventions and resolutions and collaborative awareness campaigns.
Words: Hlengiwe Khwela