Continuing Medical Education

Addressing adolescent alcohol use in South Africa

Neo K Morojele, Leane Ramsoomar


Excessive alcohol consumption constitutes a significant public health problem for South Africans. Alcohol use by South African (SA)
adolescents is characterised mainly by binge/heavy episodic drinking. Levels of binge drinking have been high, but relatively stable, among
males since 2002, while there has been a significant increase in binge drinking by females since then. Binge drinking is a major risk factor
for a range of alcohol-related harms in SA, including traffic-related accidents and deaths, interpersonal violence, fetal alcohol spectrum
disorder (FASD), crime, sexual risk behaviour, HIV, tuberculosis and the resultant burden of all of these on the economy. Clinicians may
play a key role in addressing adolescent alcohol use and alcohol-related harm. Such a role may involve screening, brief interventions and
referrals to treatment. There are several assessment, screening and diagnostic tools to detect alcohol use and misuse, specifically among
adolescents. Furthermore, various pharmacological and psychological approaches are available to treat adolescent alcohol problems. Special
issues to consider when dealing with alcohol use problems among adolescents in SA include recognising the risk factors, and acknowledging
and addressing the harms associated with alcohol use (including sexual risk behaviour and FASD) and the possible existence of comorbid
mental health problems.

Authors' affiliations

Neo K Morojele, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Pretoria; and School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town; School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Leane Ramsoomar, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

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Adolescent; Alcohol use

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(6):551-553. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i6.10944

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-04-20
Date published: 2016-05-14

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