Recovering drug users have called for an end to the shame and stigma, they say, has kept them from returning to their communities.
The ex-addicts took to the stage at the National Summit of Substance Abuse on Tuesday.
The three-day conference is bringing together government leaders, NGOs and reformed drug users to discuss tangible solutions to the country’s scourge of drug abuse.
Felicity Bason (28) says her drug addiction robbed her of everything, forcing her to sell her body.
Trapped in the dark underbelly of hard drugs and prostitution, Bason says it was a friend and fellow addict who first suggested they find help together.
The mom of three says while she’s grateful for recovery, her next big hurdle is finding employment.
Other former drug users say stigmatisation and stunted education have left them vulnerable in the job market.
The recovering addicts say finding employment is a small, but necessary step in restoring their dignity.
Former Bafana Bafana soccer player and recovering drug addict, Junaid Hartley, was among those in attendance.
He encouraged aspiring athletes to take greater care of their mental health.
The former footballer says a sudden injury in 1997 shattered his dreams of making it big, causing him to turn to drugs for comfort.
After spending 14 years on the streets of Johannesburg, Hartley’s giving hope to others, cautioning high-performing athletes not to turn to drugs as a coping mechanism.
Social Development Minister, Lindiwe Zulu, delivered the keynote address at the event.
She slammed mainstream media for, what she termed, its continued glorification of drugs and alcohol, saying as a result – the realisation of a drug-free South Africa is still a stark and distant reality.
Zulu says while drug and alcohol companies continue to profit, its communities who pay the ultimate price of addiction.
She’s urged musicians, athletes and other public figures to stop glamourising substance abuse, making a final plea to young people to educate themselves about its dangers. Article by Naomi Kobbie
Written by: Lindiwe Mabena