Increased addiction challenges ahead?

Addiction expert Adél Grobbelaar is concerned that the unavailability of legal cigarettes and alcohol during the lockdown will worsen the challenges faced by people living with addiction.

Adél, who holds honours degrees in social work and psychology, has dedicated over three decades to assisting alcoholics and drug addicts in an attempt to reintegrate them back into society.

She has run the Wedge Gardens rehab centre in Johannesburg since July 1998.

“There is a lot of anger and frustration over the decision of government not to allow the sale of cigarettes and alcohol.

“Government seems to think that if people cannot obtain ciggies and booze, they will eventually stop using them. While the legal availability of both these substances presents the perfect time to give up smoking and reduce drinking, human nature and addiction means this will unfortunately not be the option taken by the majority of people.

“Instead, alcohol and cigarettes are being bought on the black market and many of these products are even more harmful than what is available legally. The poor quality of black market products will worsen existing health problems and speed up the development of new ones.

“Working in a rehabilitation centre and admitting patients during this period has made it clear to me that people suffering from substance use disorders will definitely make a plan to lay their hands not only on cigarettes and alcohol, but also illicit drugs.

“Someone always knows someone else who can get anything for a price,” says Adél.

“Addicts would rather buy drugs and booze than food – therefore the legal unavailability is not addressing addiction problems.”

People queued for miles to stock up before the lockdown was enforced. Can you imagine the chaos when sales are once again allowed? she asks.

Another concern is that with the recession, people might not be able to afford the costs of the legal products and with the new contacts they have made on the black market, will turn to increasingly inferior products, once black market prices drop down to what they were before the lockdown.

“The unavailability of cigarettes and alcohol is not necessarily going to address the addiction problems in our country – in fact, it might aggravate them in the long-term. Time will tell,” says Adél.