Substance Abuse in Johannesburg.

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Substance Abuse in Johannesburg.

13 January, 2021Articles, News

For many years now people have been made aware of the dangers that are present when substance abuse occurs. Unfortunately, misinformation and ignorance contribute to the continued abuse of drugs both legal and illegal. This article will go on to discuss the physical implications associated with some of the commonly abused substances within the drug culture of Johannesburg.


Alcohol is arguably the most widely abused substance across the world, though many people partake of it without serious consequences, those who drink to excess can experience a host of negative health consequences. These include liver damage and failure, damage to the kidneys and other internal organs. The brain can also experience severe damage with prolonged alcohol abuse, possibly even resulting in Korsakoff’s syndrome, (sometimes referred to as “wet brain”). This form of dementia is not unlike Alzheimer’s, and the effects are not reversible once present. When heavy drinkers suddenly stop the body can enter a state of withdrawal, though most of the symptoms cause temporary discomfort, some people may experience seizures which can lead to long-term damage. Indulging in large quantities of alcohol in one go, common among binge drinkers, can result in alcohol poisoning, Alcohol poising may cause severe vomiting,incontinence, difficulty breathing, irregular heart rate, coma and possibly even death.


“Benzo’s” are a class of pharmaceutical drugs that are used to cause sedation and are prescribed to treat sleeplessness and anxiety. The greatest risk in benzodiazepine abuse is death as a result of overdose. The central nervous system shuts down and vital functions such as breathing and heart rate are compromised. Like alcohol, benzodiazepines can also cause physical dependency, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when suddenly stopped. In some cases, persons experiencing withdrawal can go into a coma, or even die as a result of the severe physical toll the benzodiazepine withdrawal has on the body. It should also be noted that long-term substance abuse can lead to reduced cognitive functioning, with reduced memory capabilities. This may be alarming but most cognitive functions do return to normal some time after abstinence is achieved.


Crystal meth is about as infamous as a drug can get. Its abuse has become widespread in the last few years and psychosis as a result of this stimulant has become more common place. Heart disease is a frequent complication among crystal meth users, accounting for the second most frequent cause of death, with the first being overdose. Methamphetamines have a negative effect on the immune system, making users more likely to contract other diseases and infections, as well as doing serious damage to the kidneys. Meth users also frequently experience tooth decay and skin sores – these are the most stereotypical signs of crystal meth abuse.


The most commonly used amphetamine in Johannesburg is Cat (Methcathinone, also known as mephedrone). Like many toxins Cat has the potential to damage the liver, lungs, heart and kidneys. It can also have negative effects on mental health, resulting in paranoia, depression and anxiety. It may also cause psychosis in users. Cat also has a potential for overdose, when excessive amounts of the drug are used it can result in seizures, coma, and death.


As far as drugs go, marijuana is considered “safer” than many other substances. However “safe” does not mean safer (please see our article on the use and legalisation of marijuana). As far as physical side-effects go, the bodies of marijuana users aren’t heavily impacted, the physical consequences of marijuana use are similar to that of cigarette smoking. However, the consequences on mental health should not be underestimated. Long-term and excessive use can have serious impacts on mental health, resulting in paranoia, psychosis, depression and anxiety. These consequences require medical treatment long after the substance abuse has stopped.


In Johannesburg opiates are most commonly used in 3 forms, prescription medication (containing codeine), heroin, and Nyope. Though these drugs vary wildly, opiates have the same impact on the brain and body regardless of where they come from. The central nervous system of a user is severely impacted, the liver and kidney’s also work overtime trying to process the toxins, with excessive use possibly resulting in their damage. Opiates also have a high overdose potential. An overdose causes the respiratory and circulatory system to slow down, possibly resulting in respiratory failure, cardiac arrest and death. Opiates also cause physical dependence in users, withdrawal from opiates can be painful and traumatic. Withdrawal that presents with any sort of illness or discomfort should always be referred to a medical doctor. Detoxing with the assistance of a physician is imperative.

There are many dangers associated with substance abuse within Johannesburg’s drug culture, this article has only scraped the surface of the possibly consequences. The physical symptoms may be frightening and severe but the mental and social consequences should not be discounted.

The road to recovery from substance abuse is not always an easy one but getting yourself or your loved one the best care from the team at Crossroads Recovery Centre in Johannesburg, provides you with a map to sober, healthy living. No matter how bad things seem, there is hope and it’s just a phone call away. If you or anyone close to you needs help with an addiction to sex, gambling, substances, alcohol or food, please contact us for a free assessment.

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