Finding help for adolescent drug addicts


While substance abuse is a disease, public health services are not able to help children with drug testing services because they cannot offer a complete service of referring or counselling them.

Tafelsig Matrix Clinic does not offer drug-testing services for children. As of January this year, the clinic caters for youth aged 18 and older.

Previously, it offered drug-testing services to adolescents with a referral for the client and their family to additional counselling services like Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre (CTDCC) or the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA), who render adolescent services.

Siyabulela Mamkeli, mayoral committee member for health, said it is in the best interest of the child to be referred for testing and accompanying intervention with service providers which offer adolescent services.

He said between August and November last year, the clinic helped four clients, aged 13 and younger and 103 clients, aged between 14 and 18.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act permits principals to search any pupil or the pupil’s property for any dangerous object, alcohol or illegal drugs they believe may cause serious psychological damage or physical injury to others.

According to a school policy on random search and seizure, the suspicion could be brought about by a whistle-blower; someone alerting the principal to its presence; parents reporting it; traces of drugs and alcoholic liquor on the school premises; threats of the use of dangerous objects against other pupils; injury as a result of the use of such objects; and any other reasonable indication.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said safe and secure learning environments are essential to ensure quality education is delivered. “It is imperative that our schools remain weapon and drug-free zones,” she said.

Ms Shelver said it is a reality that some pupils come to school in possession of dangerous objects and illegal drugs, despite the act clearly stating that no one may bring these items onto the school premises at any time.

“The Western Cape Education Department works closely with partners in the Western Cape government and civil society on dealing with substance abuse among young people in the province,” she said.

Ms Shelver added that in terms of the curriculum, drug education was included in the Grades R to 9 life orientation syllabuses and the National Curriculum for Further Education and Training.

“This ensures that a pupil acquires age and context-appropriate knowledge and skills, in order for them to adopt and maintain life skills and behaviour that will protect them from drug use, misuse and dependency.

“Schools and institutions are also encouraged, as far as possible, to involve outside organisations specialising in drug education and intervention and other associated programmes to augment the education provided by the school-based educators,” she said.

Esther Lewis, head of communications for the provincial Department of Social Development (DSD), said they are using a more targeted approach to dealing with children and substance abuse. She said programmes have been held at schools, which have identified a need for intervention for substance abuse.

“The WCED also employs social workers whom school children can access. DSD worked closely with the Department of Education to develop content for life orientation about substance abuse. This now forms part of the curriculum,” she said.

Since May last year the department has expanded its substance abuse treatment programmes, which are not available at Child and Youth Care Centres (CYCC) across the Western Cape. The department notices a trend whereby younger children had been presenting with substance abuse issues when they arrived at CYCC.

The department provides a substance abuse treatment programme for children and youth with acute substance dependency problems at De Novo Treatment Centre, in Kraaifontein for boys, aged between 16 and 17; at and Lindelani CYCC, in Koelenhof Stellenbosch, for girls and boys, aged between13 and 15.

The substance abuse treatment programme at Lindelani runs separately from all other CYCC programmes.

These two programmes are additional in-patient substance abuse treatment programmes to those currently offered by the department and admission to the programmes is both voluntary and through court referrals.

* Should a child or youth who is referred to a CYCC in terms of Section 156 of the Children’s Act be sentenced to compulsory residence in a CYCC in terms of Section 76 of the Child Justice Act, upon admission be assessed and found to have an acute substance dependency problem, internal referral will be applied to the Matrix substance abuse programme that will be provided by trained social workers at the centre.

These include Bosasa Horizon CYCC, in Faure; Bosasa CYCC, in Clanwilliam; Vredelus CYCC, in Elsies River; Bonnytoun CYCC, in Kraaifontein; and Outeniqua CYCC, in George. All applications for admission are to be accompanied by a psycho-social report, which should indicate previous community-based treatment, a medical certificate, care plan, identity document or birth certificate, a school progress report, a school transfer report, and a court order, if referred by court.

All applications must be submitted to the centralised admission administrator Mandilakhe Madi. For more information, call him on 021 987 2485, send a fax to 086 407 8348 or email

Ms Lewis said by implementing these processes, the department will ensure the enhancement of quality programme provision within its centres throughout the province.

For more information on community-based treatment options and in-patient treatment centres, contact the department’s toll-free number 0800 220 250.