Wellness Cafe

When use becomes abuse

May 23, 2024 | Momentum Wellness App

When use becomes abuse

Someone you know may be struggling with addiction right now. It could even be you.

South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence’s (SANCA’s) Drug Awareness Week, 24-30 June, reminds us that there is help available for people who want to break the chains of dependence.

  1. Understand the reality

Think of substance abuse and you probably picture someone injecting illicit drugs. But actually it is the unhealthy use of anything – alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, narcotics, even food – to the point where you cannot stop, even if it’s causing you harm.

  1. Red alert

Warning signs that your use is problematic:

    • family and friends are worried
    • neglecting your responsibilities
    • using substances to cope with stress or negative emotions
    • feeling you cannot live without it.
  1. Take stock 

Step back and look at the negative impact substance abuse is having in your life:

    • physical health problems
    • financial difficulties
    • lost relationships
    • legal issues
    • problems at work or school.
  1. Reflect on it

Understand your reasons for using so you can recognise when it’s becoming harmful. Are you using the substance/s to escape reality? Numb emotional pain? Deal with stress? Counselling can help you figure out what’s going on and find better ways to cope.

  1. Seek help

The first step in overcoming substance abuse is realising and accepting that you have a problem. Once you’re ready, reach out to a trusted friend, family member or professional, such as a counsellor specialising in addiction.

Here are some of the resources you can access:

  • SANCA: www.sancanational.info
  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG): www.sadag.org
  • Lifeline: www.lifeline.co.za



  • The South African Stress and Health Study

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