Staff at a rehabilitation centre in Tshwane were stunned when a group of youngsters stormed the facility‚ some accompanied by parents‚ demanding to be treated for addiction.

About 40 youngsters descended on the Dr Fabian and Florence Ribeiro Treatment Centre in Tshwane on Saturday night‚ seeking admission without being properly processed in terms of rehabilitation procedures.

Gauteng MEC for social development Nandi Mayathula-Khoza welcomed the news but raised concerns. “We are encouraged by the interest amongst the youth in Tshwane to find solutions themselves. But it is important that proper procedures are followed. Otherwise we run serious health risks‚” she said.

“If patients are not clinically assessed to eliminate possibilities of communicable diseases‚ this might create untold health problems. Secondly‚ such good initiatives could be easily used by rival gangs who could place the lives of current patients in danger‚” Mayathula-Khoza said.

She said that first prize was always prevention and early intervention. “I understand these young people were joined by some of their parents. I wish we could have them cooperating with government to ensure prevention because it is the most primary proactive measure. We have several services including our Ke Moja campaign – which is slang for ‘I am OK’ without drugs‚” the MEC explained.

Mayathula-Khoza said there were community and school based prevention and awareness campaigns. “These initiatives focus on preventing serious harm to high-risk learners. These are done through group therapy sessions‚ alcohol safety schools‚ diversion programmes‚ behaviour modification camps.

“But if people must be admitted‚ we need to provide them with specialised social‚ psychological and medical services‚ both to service users and to [other] persons affected by substance abuse with a view to addressing the associated social and health consequences‚” she said.

She said the process included detoxification‚ therapeutic interventions (for individuals‚ groups and families) and aftercare‚ provided by social workers‚ professional nurses‚ medical practitioners‚ psychologists‚ occupational therapists and psychiatrists.

Over the past few years the Gauteng provincial government has been battling an increase of drug abuse among the youth. One of the challenges was that some of the addicts‚ once taken to treatment centres‚ would escape.

It was for this reason that Mayathula-Khoza emphasised prevention in schools to ensure that learners were aware of the dangers of addiction.