During health awareness month, we look at the issue of substance abuse at Wits University.

Wits University is a prime location for substance abuse because it is a conducive environment for social pressure. This is according to psychology lecturer Enid Schutte in an interview with Wits Vuvuzela on Wednesday, April 11.

The lecturer who has been at Wits since 2004 said that the university has a major substance abuse issue. “It is very rife,” she said. “You’ve got a lot of youth together, a lot of peer pressure.”

Schutte, who specialises in neuropsychology and is an expert in the effects that drugs have on the brain, says that a university is a place where you get students putting social pressures on each other. “You’re at the age where you care about image, you’re lonely and shy and alcohol and drugs seems like a solution.”

BA Education graduate Kolopo Kganyago considers himself a survivor of substance abuse after not drinking for two years. He told Wits Vuvuzela that he drank almost every single day in his first year and that negatively affected his academic performance.

“Whatever chance I got, so if I was free the whole week I would drink the whole week. And I didn’t really spend that much time studying. So it was whatever free time I got, I would actually make time for myself to drink,” he said.

Kganyago admits that peer pressure played a huge role in his struggle with substance abuse.

“I was the popular person because that’s how university is. It is unfortunate that the people who put more into their academics and are not social much don’t get given that much attention. The more you drink,the more you seem to be a cool person on campus,”he said.

Infographic: Tshego Mokgabudi

Shameen Naidu and Toinette Bradley from the Counselling and Career Development Unit (CCDU) say that substance abuse is a problem all over the country.

They told Wits Vuvuzela it is safe to assume that there is a substance abuse problem among Wits students even in the absence of firm statistics.

“Wits is a microcosm of the broader society and since there are substance abuse concerns nationally and internationally, we can assume that there is most likely a substance abuse problem on campus as well,” they said.

“We have on occasion run substance abuse groups, however, there have not been adequate uptake of this service,” she said.

“Unfortunately, when someone has a substance abuse problem, it is not often identified as a problem by them, and they do not easily seek help. We would certainly, as CCDU, be able to do more in the form of groups, but this can only happen when more students come forward wanting help.”

CCDU runs advocacy campaigns about substance abuse every year.

CORRECTION: This article initially quoted Eileen Maleka when the comments should have been attributed to Shameen Naidu and Toinette Bradley. This has been corrected in the copy.

FEATURED IMAGE: Infrographic showing signs and effects of alcohol abuse.

SOURCES FOR INFOGRAPHIC: Patterson, E. Alcohol Abuse. Drugabuse.com  National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. 2016. [https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/signs-and-symptoms/signs-and-symptoms]