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Affinity Health Recognises International Overdose Awareness Day

As leading medical insurance providers in SA, Affinity Health raises awareness around the growing problem of drug addiction and overdose deaths.


What are the Dangers of Drug Addiction?

Some people assume that abusing prescription drugs is safer than illegal street drugs. That isn’t the case at all. Prescription drug abuse is responsible for 60% of all overdose deaths worldwide.


International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on 31 August. This annual occasion brings issues related to overdoses to the forefront, particularly in the context of COVID-19. The day also serves as a reminder that every life is precious and holds meaning and value.


Sadly, drug-related deaths are often pushed under the rug. Affected families hide in the shadows, humiliated and scared of being judged by society. No one expects to become hooked when they first take drugs. Most addicts start out believing that they can stop using drugs whenever they choose.


Options Behavioural Health Hospital states that while certain people are more at risk for substance abuse and for developing addiction disorders than others. However, researchers have yet to unearth a single factor responsible for the misuse of drugs.


Drug abuse can find its way into even the most stable and loving home. With expensive illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin out of reach for many, they’re turning to a range of other options to get high. The addiction among South African to prescription drugs, in particular, is of growing concern. The issue has been exacerbated by the stress brought about by the coronavirus global pandemic.


Since the early 1990s, the availability and usage of illicit drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin, LSD, amphetamines, and ecstasy has steadily increased in South Africa.


According to research, the primary illicit substance at admission to South African drug treatment centres is cannabis.

However, the Foundation for A Drug-Free World says that the abuse of prescription meds, particularly anti-anxiety medication and opioid painkillers, is snowballing. Depressants, opioids, and antidepressants are responsible for more overdose deaths than cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and amphetamines combined.


Ironically, the South African Depression & Anxiety Group states that over 50% of all prescription medications for nonmedical use are obtained from a friend or family member.


“The reality is that addiction to any medication will have devastating consequences to your health,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.


Overdosing – whether accidental or intentional – can cause serious damage to your body, including severe chest pain, seizures, migraine, difficulty breathing, liver damage, coma, and death.”

What Increases the Risk of Drug Addiction?

  • You’re taking several different medications.
  • You do not correctly follow your doctor’s or pharmacist’s recommendations.
  • You’re taking many medicines that contain the same active component (for example, two anti-anxiety tablets with different brand names but the same active ingredient will result in you taking twice the dose).
  • The medicine is more potent than you anticipated (even if you’ve taken it previously, medications with the same brand name exist in varying strengths, so it’s always crucial to read the label).
  • You lose track of how much medication you’ve previously consumed.
  • The medicine is mixed with alcohol.


Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to avoid overdosing on prescription medications.

Recognising early warning signs of addiction is maybe the most important step.

Seek help if:

  • Your family, friends, or work colleagues have highlighted a sudden or radical shift in your behaviour or personality take their concerns seriously.
  • You experience changes in your sleeping and eating habits
  • You become irritable or withdrawn
  • You start using prescriptions at a much faster rate than prescribed
  • You are tempted to seal or forge prescriptions
  • You start “borrowing” prescription medications from others.
  • You begin experiencing sudden abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle and bone pain, sweating, chills, goosebumps, or dilated pupils.

Where to get help

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, there are several organisations you can reach out to.

These include:

SANCA 24 Hour Helpline: 


Narcotics Anonymous

083 900 69 62


080 012 1314

National Substance Abuse Helpline

0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312

Sanofi-Synthelabo, dedicated to substance abuse disorders:

0800 118 392

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health aims to provide premier quality, affordable medical insurance to South Africans. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service when they are faced with injury or illness. We work to deliver innovative solutions that are simple, cost-effective, and proven, so our cover is structured to ensure that you get exactly what you need. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

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