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How Does Alcohol Abuse in South Africa Affect the Healthcare System?

Although the alcohol industry contributes substantially to our economy and is responsible for thousands of jobs, alcohol abuse in South Africa places immense pressure on our healthcare system.

Not only does alcohol abuse burden our healthcare system, it also negatively impacts many other areas of our society.

alcohol related incidents in south africa

Alcohol Abuse in South Africa and How it Affects our Healthcare System

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South African president implemented a stringent ban on alcohol sales which lasted around 2 months.

However, the alcohol industry, as well as the people of South Africa lobbied aggressively against the ban. On the 1st of June, president Ramaphosa lifted the ban.

The consequences were not only noticeable but also hair-raising and, as a result, the ban was reintroduced a month later in an effort to curb alcohol-related incidents in South Africa.

Not only are these incidents traumatic for the people involved, the number of trauma cases began to flood the hospital beds, reducing the hospitals’ capacity to treat and manage new COVID-19 cases.

Once the ban was reintroduced, alcohol-related deaths and incidents such as hospital trauma cases, violence, motor vehicle accidents, crime and domestic violence, dropped dramatically.

Alcohol-Related Incidents in South Africa

COVID-19 is not to blame for the statistics we are about to discuss; it has merely shed much-needed light on a topic that needs urgent attention from our government.

To put things into context, in 2015, an estimated 62,300 South Africans died from alcohol-related causes. This is according to research published in BMC Medicine in 2018.

Furthermore, more recent research has brought to light some alarming statistics which became visible during the national ban on alcohol sales in South Africa:

  • Murder cases decreased by 72%
  • Rape cases decreased by 87.2%
  • Attempted murder cases decreased by 65.9%
  • Assault with grievous bodily harm decreased by 85.2%
  • Robbery with aggravating circumstances 69.6%
  • Violent death rate dropped by at least 2000 deaths during level 5 lockdown and alcohol ban
  • Hospital trauma admissions have decreased by 66%
  • Domestic violence cases decreased by 66%

These numbers come from comparing the period between March 29th and April 22nd 2019 and March 27th and April 20th 2020.

The sad reality is that even without the additional challenges of a pandemic, the healthcare system will continue to buckle under the weight of alcohol-related deaths and incidents in South Africa.

Doctors have confirmed that on a normal weekend, most casualties that come through the emergency doors are alcohol related, whether the patient has consumed alcohol or has been injured by someone who was under the influence of alcohol.

alcohol abuse in south africa

Unfortunately, this has become commonplace in emergency units across the country – so much so that it hardly gets the attention it deserves from policy makers or the government.

However, as lockdown has properly revealed the magnitude of the situation, the country now has the opportunity to put stricter measures in place to protect its people from alcohol-related incidents going forward and beyond this pandemic.

Methods that may prove to be effective in reducing the burden alcohol has on our society and healthcare system include:

  • Trade restrictions
  • Volume restrictions
  • Reducing alcohol outlet density across the country
  • Aggressive awareness campaigns across all media platforms

These methods may also reduce the prevalence of alcohol abuse and addiction, which are responsible for many other socio-economic issues such as unemployment and domestic violence.

Step Away Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa – Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment

With further control in place regarding the sale and availability of alcohol, resources will become available for other pressing matters faced by our country.

More importantly, South African’s will live a safer life on the streets, on the roads and in their homes.

Step Away offers an excellent recovery programme for alcohol abuse. If you would like to find out more, please feel free to contact us.

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