Monitoring alcohol and drug abuse trends in South Africa (1996-2006): reflections on treatment demand trends
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This article describes the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use project, describes selected trends in treatment demand related to alcohol and other drug (AOD) use for a 10 year period, and reflects on the utility and impact of this initiative on policy and practice. Data are collected using a standardized data collection form from over 70 specialist AOD treatment centres in six sentinel sites in South Africa every 6 months. Data are also collected from police forensic records and community surveys. Treatment demand linked to methamphetamine use has increased substantially in recent years in one site (Cape Town), but not in other sites. Treatment demand for heroin-related problems has increased over time in most sites, with changes in the population group profile of patients being noted. Over time the proportion of adolescents admitted to treatment centres has also increased significantly. The project has informed policy development at provincial and national levels, has guided local training and resource allocation decisions and has allowed us to engage meaningfully in international forums. It has furthermore strengthened collaboration among researchers and stimulated new research initiatives. Dissemination activities have been intensive.