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Decoding the Language of Substance Use: A Comprehensive Glossary

Substance Use Glossary: Decoding Policy Language Effectively

Navigate South Africa's substance use policy with confidence using this comprehensive glossary. From "substance use" to "harm reduction," decode key terms for precise policy engagement. The glossary clarifies distinctions, such as "misuse" and "abuse," providing a shared understanding. Learn about addiction, binge drinking, co-occurring disorders, and innovative concepts like "community recovery capital." Unpack the continuum of care, demand reduction, and prevention strategies for a holistic perspective. Whether you're a policymaker or service user, this glossary empowers all stakeholders to effectively engage with the complexities of substance use policy, fostering a unified and informed national approach.



In the complex realm of substance use policy, precise and consistent language is paramount. The introduction of nuanced terms and definitions ensures a shared understanding, laying the foundation for effective policy implementation. This glossary aims to decode the terminology employed in the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act No. 70 of 2008, providing clarity on the distinctions between various concepts.

1. Explanatory Notes:

Defining "Substance Use":

The policy establishes a broad scope by incorporating the term "substance use" to encompass both licit and illicit substances. This inclusive approach recognizes the diverse nature of substances, from alcohol and tobacco to prescription medications.

Precision in Language:

To avoid ambiguity, the glossary introduces the term "misuse" specifically to address the non-medical use of prescription drugs. This clarification is crucial in distinguishing between therapeutic use and potentially harmful misuse.

Understanding "Drug Use," "Misuse," and "Abuse":

Explanatory notes unravel the distinctions between "drug use," "drug misuse," and "drug abuse," providing a comprehensive understanding of the spectrum of substance-related behaviours.

2. Definitions: Deciphering Key Concepts

Navigating the Legal Landscape:

The glossary begins with a reference to the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act, grounding the reader in the legal framework underpinning the policy.

Addiction Defined:

A spotlight on the term "addiction" offers a clear definition, describing it as a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive substance seeking and use despite harmful consequences.

Binge Drinking Defined:

The glossary succinctly defines "binge drinking" as the excessive consumption of alcohol in a short period, providing clarity on a prevalent pattern of harmful alcohol use.

Case Management:

The term "case management" is demystified, elucidating its administrative, clinical, and evaluative functions that assist clients in their recovery journey.

Addressing Co-occurring Disorders:

"Co-occurring Disorders (COD)" takes centre stage, highlighting the simultaneous presence of a substance use disorder and a mental or medical disorder.

Community Recovery Capital: Empowering Communities:

A novel concept, "Community Recovery Capital," is introduced, encompassing community attitudes, policies, and resources that promote the resolution of alcohol and other drug use problems.

3. Bridging Gaps: The Importance of Clear Definitions

Continuum of Care: A Holistic Perspective:

The concept of a "Continuum of Care" is explored, emphasizing the range and type of treatment and services a person may receive over time.

Demand Reduction and Designer Drugs: Curbing Consumption:

Terms like "Demand Reduction" and "Designer Drugs" enter the spotlight, revealing policies and programs directed at reducing consumer demand for psychoactive substances and the evolution of new substances through molecular modification.

Psychoactive Substances Unveiled: From Alcohol to Illicit Drugs:

A comprehensive definition of "Psychoactive Substances" clarifies that it includes legal and illicit drugs, designer drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and certain medications.

4. Towards Recovery: A Holistic Approach

Treatment and Recovery Management: An Evidence-Based Focus:

The glossary demystifies "Treatment of Substance Use Disorder" and "Recovery Management," emphasizing evidence-based psychosocial and biomedical interventions for effective substance use management.

Prevention Strategies: From Universal to Indicated Interventions:

The concept of "Prevention" is unpacked, categorizing strategies into universal, selective, and indicated interventions to delay or prevent the onset of substance use.

Harm Reduction: Reducing Social, Economic, and Health-Related Harm:

The philosophy of "Harm Reduction" is explored, focusing on reducing social, economic, and health-related harm stemming from alcohol and other drug use.


In conclusion, this glossary serves as a compass for navigating the intricate language woven into South Africa's substance use policy. By deciphering key terms, it empowers stakeholders, from policymakers to service users, to engage with the policy effectively. As the nation collectively addresses the challenges of substance use, a shared understanding of the language ensures a unified and informed approach.

Continue Reading

The Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse

Substance Use Trends and Strategic Interventions

Comprehensive Policy for Substance Use Disorders

Approach to Substance Use Prevention and Treatment

Approach to Substance Reduction Strategies

Overview of Substance Abuse Governance





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