It’s just alcohol – Samuel Vorster

It’s just alcohol – Samuel Vorster

Alcohol is a “legal” and “recreational” substance that is mass marketed to the public.  This differs from reports from medical and legal professionals.  The well documented consequences of the abuse and misuse of alcohol have shown the major impact that alcohol has on society, as a whole.

In most cultures around the world, the initiation of alcohol use has been seen by peers as a rite of passage.   It only takes a causal read of articles on the ills of alcohol abuse and dependency to see that alcohol is one of the most lethal substances that a person can abuse.

Global alcohol use, according to “The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism”, stated that in 2017 over 75% of youth had drank alcohol in their lifespan and that almost a third had misused or hazardous drinking patterns which considerably contributed to the high level (estimated in the US 88000) of annual deaths.  Global use differs and is entrenched on the social and cultural norms of communities but its burden on the health systems is huge.  According to the WHO in 2016, estimated that 3 million fatalities (5.3% of all deaths) and 5.1% of all disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) were attributed to hazardless alcohol use.

Besides the above impact on the general public, severe irreversible consequences are incurred when pregnant mothers continue to use alcohol.   The spectrum of foetal alcohol syndrome conditions severely impacts the foetus, in utero, severely whereby the family system would have to take care a severely cognitively and physical impaired individual for their entire lifespan.

Known affects from alcohol use are spontaneous abortions, low weight at birth, developmental & behavioural abnormalities in infancy.  Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder cases from Southern Africa have been documented as highest in the world.

In South Africa, the dop system, a way that farmers paid their employees by means of alcohol, has produced numerous cases of abuse and dependence on alcohol.  This became a part of everyday life which has unfortunately been passed from generation to generation, placing a large burden on resources.


At the Haven, we run successful rehab programme that can assist in laying of the foundation work of recovery.


  • What are the signs that I could have a dependency on alcohol?
    • Research states that if a male consumes more than 5 units of alcohol daily or more than 15 units a week, or in the case of females, drink more 4 units daily or 8 units weekly, can elevate a person’s risk for having health or social related problems from long term patterns of use.
    • Observed withdrawal signs are, which normally start 6-8 hours after the last units of alcohol:
      • Sweating, elevated and or irregular heart rate
      • Shaking hands
      • The inability to fall asleep
      • Nausea and vomiting
      • Feeling an inner restlessness
      • Anxiety
      • And in some cases, sudden stiffening and contraction of the muscles in the body which can occur within the first 2 days after termination of use.
      • Hallucinations or illusions, which can be in form of visions, sounds or
    • When person drinks in excess of 15 units a day, for longer than 4 weeks, are at risk of acute Wernicke’s encephalopathy which has a significant fatality rate.
  • Can I just stop using alcohol?
    • In cases of severe dependence this can lead to Delirium tremens and withdrawal seizures which can be fatal in a third of cases.
  • What could I expect from treatment, does this differ to other substance treatments?
    • Besides medical detoxification and symptom relief, this does not differ from the treatment from any other addictive substances.
  • Can I go back to using alcohol successfully?
    • The short answer is no, feedback from long term persons in recovery that any amount of alcohol will lead a person eventually back to full blown use.
  • Why do they call it one of the gateway drugs?
    • All substances with abuse potential, sometimes referred to as mind altering substances, have their affect on the limbic system aka the pleasure/ reward of the brain through their effects on the various chemical systems in the brain including effects on the dopamine system. When use increases and tolerance increases (the need to use more to attain the same high) this creates the opening to start experimenting with substances that create more of a “high” that was created by large amounts of alcohol.



  1. Gordis, Enoch. “The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.” Alcohol Health & Research World 19.1 (1995): 5-12. Web.
  2. National Institute of Mental Health (2019). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Retrieved November 15, 2019, from
  3. Wikipedia contributors. (2019, November 10). Disability-adjusted life year. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:12, November 15, 2019, from
  4. World Health Organization (2019). Discussion paper: Implementation of the WHO global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol since its endorsement, and the way forward. Geneva: WHO; 2019. Available from