Tag Archives: Wedge Gardens Treatment Centre

Awesome Adèl turns 60!

Fittingly, Wedge Gardens manager Adèl Grobbelaar’s birthday falls on Women’s Day, August 9.

This year, she turned a significant 60 and to celebrate, her colleagues organised a surprise breakfast party on August 5.

“It was the most sanitised birthday we have ever celebrated,” laughs Wedge Gardens deputy manager Estelle Raath.

“Working with Adèl every day is more than working with a colleague; it’s working with a friend. She makes Wedge a place of smiles, laughs and precious memories. As we wish her a very happy 60th birthday, we celebrate the person she is and the joy and delight we all get from working with her.

“She is a very special person who spreads warmth and kindness to everyone she meets,” says Estelle.

A veteran in the field of substance abuse rehabilitation, Adèl has headed up the Sanca rehab centre in Johannesburg for 22 years. She has a BA in Social Work (Hons) from the Rand Afrikaans University and a BA in Psychology (Hons) from Unisa.

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Illegal cigarettes and substance abuse

South Africa has banned the sale of cigarettes during lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 but the big illegal cigarette brands are now the best sellers around the country.

“As most of us know, smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases worldwide. Unlike legally produced cigarettes, illicitly produced cigarettes do not comply with manufacturing and safety standards,” warns Estelle Raath, the deputy manager of Johannesburg-based Sanca Wedge Gardens rehab centre.

Cigarettes contain the addictive drug nicotine, as well as other toxic chemicals which are carcinogenic (cancer forming).

“There is no safe method of smoking. Nicotine in tobacco is a very powerful addictive substance. Nicotine produces pleasing effects in your brain, but these effects are temporary, and that is why you reach for another cigarette.

“The addictive nature of nicotine and withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit are what makes nicotine dependence a chronic relapsing disease.

“With the current cigarette ban, my question is ‘If the smoking of legally produced cigarettes can cause so many diseases, what are the illegal brands doing to smokers?’

“What other effects will smokers be sitting with post COVID-19 and will we see a rise in substance abuse figures if these illegal cigarettes contain chemicals that will leave smokers with more severe symptoms and withdrawals?”

To contact Wedge Gardens, call 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za

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COVID-19, mental health and substance abuse

People who abuse drugs or alcohol often do so to cope with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. A global pandemic like COVID-19 can trigger a wide range of emotional reactions, causing high levels of anxiety and stress for all of us.

“Substance use and abuse during this time should be avoided but ironically, people turn to substances to cope with the stress and trauma,” says Estelle Raath, the deputy manager of Johannesburg-based Sanca Wedge Gardens rehab centre.

People often cope by using substances, primarily things that are easily available like alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and non-prescription medications, she explains. “That’s why substance abuse may rise during COVID-19. Substance abusers might look for a way to feel better and escape from the traumatic and stressful circumstances. When they use drugs or alcohol, the reward pathways in their brain are triggered.

“Many substance abusers have underlying medical conditions, which often place them at great risk of contracting COVID-19. The fear that they might get the virus by leaving their homes or going back to work can cause extreme anxiety for many and anxiety and stress are huge triggers for relapse,” says Estelle.

She explains that when a person’s stress overwhelms their coping skills, they are more likely to abuse substances, to relapse or to increase the substances they already use.

“We are social beings and in need of human contact. COVID-19 has exposed people to isolation, relationship challenges and financial insecurity. During isolation, no contact can have a negative impact on mental health and again there is a correlation between mental health and addiction.”

For those at risk of relapse during this time, it is important to reach out for help before it happens.

Other measures to promote wellbeing during the pandemic:

  • Reduce or stop taking any non-prescribed substances if you can do it safely.
  • Take prescription medication as prescribed.
  • Reduce the intake of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Connect with loved ones while maintaining physical distances.
  • Join addiction support groups; there are many groups available online.
  • Practice self-care.
  • Seek professional help if you cannot do it alone.

Wedge Gardens offers a professional substance abuse treatment programme based on various psychological theories which were pioneered nationally. It is run in conjunction with the 12-step professional programme.To contact Wedge Gardens, call 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za

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Ten years sober!

My life revolved around alcohol, says 51-year-old James Algera who recently celebrated 10 years of sobriety.

After growing up in Rustenburg in the North West, James – like all abled bodied South African boys at the time – was conscripted into the South African army for his national service. It was while in the army that 19-year-old James first started drinking.

It was to be a long 20 years before he got clean and in that time, alcohol nearly cost him his family and livelihood. Today, his life is on track and James says he is in a good place, working as a structural aircraft technician (sheet metal) in Saudi Arabia.

On July 19, 2020, he had been clean for exactly one decade and to commemorate the milestone, he sent an email of thanks to Wedge Garden’s Adél Grobbelaar, who has headed up the Sanca rehab centre since 1998.

“Today, 10 years ago, I asked my work to allow me to be booked in at Wedge Gardens for alcohol abuse. I can proudly tell Wedge Gardens today that it has been 10 years and I have never touched a drink again. It has been a long and difficult road but with all Wedge Gardens’ teaching and care, I made a difference in my life and society. Thank you, guys, so much for my time there and all the care you took of me,” he wrote.

Looking back on his early days of drinking, James says that the impact of his addiction was initially ‘not too bad’.

“As I got older, alcohol became a priority in my life – everything revolved around it,” he says.

James was working in the aviation industry and he and his family were living in Kempton Park. “Those years, using alcohol was the in thing with the ‘boys’.

Eventually, he hit rock bottom – unable to function properly at work or as a husband and father.

“My finances were in a bad way and I would drink to make my problems disappear. I would make up with a hangover each day and my problems just got bigger and bigger. Eventually, my wife said that I had to choose between the bottle and her and our children.”

James had previously been told about Wedge Gardens by his employer and made the life-changing decision to ask for help, thus starting a new chapter in his life.

“The Wedge Gardens programme taught me to face life without using alcohol to cope,” he says.

After leaving Wedge Gardens, James still faced a number of challenges in reclaiming his life. “It was difficult. I had to leave my old ways behind and get used to a new way of life – like fishing and camping without a beer in my hand. I avoided so-called ‘friends’ who, it turned out, only wanted to know me when I bought them drinks or drunk with them.

“I had to change my lifestyle and make new, sober friends. Basically, at the age of 40, I had to start over again. This time, my wife and two children were my priority.”

James says that four years after leaving Wedge Gardens, his finances were still very shaky and he decided to apply for an aviation job in Saudi Arabia.

“By the grace of God, my application was successful and I have built a good career over the past six years.”

James’s wife lives in Saudi with him and their son spent three years there with his parents but now lives in Kempton Park with his sister, who is married and has given the Algeras two beautiful grandchildren.

James says he no longer thinks of drinking and describes his emotional state as strong and positive.

“My advice to people battling alcohol is to focus on God because He will help you through your struggles. Have faith and believe you will get through the recovery process. Forget the world and focus on yourself.

“Do not be afraid to ask your family or, if you are employed, your work for help. You will succeed; stay strong.”

To contact Wedge Gardens, call 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za

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Faith versus fear

KAREN GRIESSEL, A SOCIAL WORKER AT JOHANNESBURG’S SANCA WEDGE GARDENS TREATMENT CENTRE, TALKS ABOUT FAITH VERSUS FEAR AND HOW HAVING FAITH CAN HELP THE ADDICTION RECOVERY PROCESS:

During these trying times, a common experience many are having is the uncertainty of what tomorrow holds.

There have been many job losses and few opportunities exist. Then there is the pressure to maintain livelihoods within the challenges of families and relationships. If substance abuse is added to the mix, it paints a dim and unsettling picture.

Fear of the future not only keeps people trapped in addiction, it also prevent them from making progress in recovery. The most common fears that people experience include financial insecurity, worry about how they will cope without alcohol or drugs, death, disease and illness, relationship worries or that recovery is bland and boring with no happiness, good feelings or the temporary comfort substances offer.

Another trap so many of us fall into so often is worrying about things that have not happened – or may even never happen. It is hard for people to let go of their concerns over what may happen and instead focus on that which is in their control, which is preparing for the future.

The opposite of fear is faith, which is defined as believing in that which is unseen in the hope that all will work out for the good if we do the right thing.

Others forms of faith include having faith in one’s own ability or in trusting others like a therapist or a support group or a trusted friend or loved one. Even better is having faith in a higher power for strength beyond understanding. A faith community also gives a person support and structure, which may increase feelings of hope and the chance of recovery.

There is no amount of evidence that will convince someone during active addiction that they can do without the substances because the individual must be willing to take a leap of faith to get the recovery ball rolling.

To contact Wedge Gardens, call 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za
 

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The enigma I found in myself (what it is, is where it isn’t)

Kamohelo Moalosi, who is undergoing rehabilitation at Wedge Gardens rehab centre, wrote this piece about his journey to sobriety:

I’ll start by acknowledging the divine, God! And I give thanks for His continuous mercy and everlasting love. It is a surreal realisation, one that can not be achieved without one being totally truthful and humble.

Me, the true self, has been dormant from suppression by what I understand as the enigma. There would be no reason to live to learn without its carefully planned existence. I by no means romanticise its persona, but I also do not disrespect it. Over the years and through a dreadful journey of endless days and drug use, I found out about many things. Most of which are polar opposites of who I truly am. But I did ask God to guide Me to understanding myself and that’s when The Enigma appeared. To learn and know what ‘it is’ I had to be taken to places where ‘it isn’t’, physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and figuratively.

I begun to seek the unattainable and thought that rare knowledge would make me. It is actually sick and scary to want to be smarter than everyone else. It’s an illness that thrives off other illnesses – delusion to name one – and it infects perception of self and of the space one finds one’s self in.

Despite the enigma’s intentions, the true self stays true. That’s all it can be – true – and though it is dragged through the dirt and darkness it never ever dies. It is the strongest character I have ever met. It is darkness that discovers light, but it is light that gives birth to life. It is light that nurtures and strengthens minds and souls wholesomely. It is light that allows love. It is light that brings warmth and healthy growth. It is the light that reveals the treachery that lingers in the darkness. It is light that is the true self. And it is the true self that is the light.

The enigma stirs the need to pursue happiness, but happiness is but only temporary. The pursuit of happiness is a second rate ambition, only monotonous boring people are happy! It is easy to attain happiness – drugs, liquor, alcohol and many other frivolous worldly things can bring happiness. One can develop an obsessive compulsive personality whilst chasing a temporary chemical reaction – that’s happiness when thoroughly thought of – which is an illness! It is the prize for the meek.

Joy is the internal conquest uncovered. It is not found through and by inebriation, it cannot be summoned by the external feeble offerings of the world. It is not delivered by the hands of the meek. It lasts forever, for eternity! It does not compromise the true self, for it is the true self that leads and guides one to joy. No fool knows joy; no well-seasoned thief can steal it. No chemical can educe joy. It can not be broken!

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Research gives a picture of Wedge Gardens

An interesting picture has emerged of Wedge Gardens rehab centre outside Johannesburg, following research done by Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, formerly known as Medunsa University.

The university’s research was done over the past year and involved 246 patients at Wedge Garden’s in-patient facility for men aged between 18 to 82 years old.

“The research highlighted addiction trends and provided valuable information regarding substance abuse for us as a treatment centre,” says Karen Griessel, a Wedge Gardens social worker.

“Our highest population age range is 18 to 39 and dwindles as the age increases. Racially, we assist more white men followed by black then coloured then Indian men.

“The population is made up largely of single men with a small percentage of married or divorced patients. Very few are widowed. Educationally, more than half have matriculated and a good portion of patients have diplomas or certificates,” she says.

Unfortunately, a very high percentage is unemployed. The report showed that in more than half of the men, their direct family is responsible for financially assisting them. “Some are self-sufficient,” she added.

Most also live with family members.

“Interestingly, half of the men were brought up in two-parent homes, followed by a large percentage of single-mother homes.

“Christianity is the major religion practised. Some of those researched have no religious affiliation while a few other religions are practised by a minority of the men.

“Half of the men have on average one or two children of their own,” says Karen.

Shockingly, more than half reported that they were between the ages of 10 and 15 when they first tried drugs. The next age group was 16 to 21 years.

Most first experimented with cannabis, alcohol and cigarettes.

The drugs used just prior to admission include dagga (39.4%), alcohol (32.5%), cigarettes (28%), tik (24.4%), nyope (24%), khat (20.3%) and cocaine (16.3%).

Karen says that in the years leading up to their admission to the rehab centre, many said they used dagga, alcohol, cigarettes and khat.

“Interestingly, prescription medication featured as well (19.1%).

“Another concern is that 38.8% of the sample population said that family members – mostly brothers and fathers – use drugs on a regular basis.”

According to the research, a very high percentage have been in rehab before, with some having taken the decision themselves to get help and other being urged to do so by concerned parents.

The reasons given for their drug use include: It makes them feel good (56.5%), stress (56.1%), curiosity (45.1%), chasing a high (43.1%), coping (39.4%), family problems (38.6%), availability (37.8%), needing something stronger (30.1%) and finances (17.1%) .

“Ultimately, it is important to understand the people we work with so we can better help them,” says Karen.

* Wedge Gardens can be reached at 011 430 0320. You can also ‘like’ Wedge Gardens on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WedgeGardensTreatmentCentre) or follow them on Twitter (@WedgeGardens)

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Tik – Methamphetamine, an all-consuming danger

The use of the drug tik alters normal functioning in a specific part of the limbic system that processes emotions such as anger and fear. As a result of this alteration, people using tik can easily develop paranoid, aggressive or violent states of mind.

“Crystal meth is typically sold in straws and costs between R15 and R30,” says Karen Griessel, a social worker at Wedge Gardens rehabilitation centre in Johannesburg.

Tik comes in many forms, from a fine powder to larger crystals. It can be snorted, orally ingested, injected or smoked, which is the most common method in South Africa.

On the street, tik has many names, including ‘tuk-tuk’, crystal, straws and globes. The powder or crystal is placed in a light bulb after the metal threading has been removed. A lighter is used to heat the bulb and the user smokes the fumes.

Tik symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, poor hygiene, increased irritability and a short-temper with out of control aggressiveness, dilated pupils, rapid speech, high anxiety, psychosis, headaches and insomnia. Addicts could still crave the drug months after using it.

“The affordability of tik means it has gained rapid popularity in South Africa. Tik is often combined with a host of chemicals and other harmful ingredients that cause mental health and physical health problems,” says Karen.

To understand it better we need to understand the limbic system, which is a collection of brain structures that includes the hippocampus, hypothalamus and amygdala. The hippocampus plays a vital role in normal consciousness by converting unstable short-term memories into stable long-term memories.

In addition to a wide range of other functions, the hypothalamus acts as the origin point for a number of different emotions and sensations, including pleasure, thirst, hunger, anger, aggression and varying degrees of sexual satisfaction. The amygdala shares in tasks performed by the hippocampus and hypothalamus, including storage of long-term memories and the generation of pleasure, fear, anger and other emotional states.

Pleasure levels inside the limbic system are regulated by a chemical messenger inside the brain called dopamine. High levels of this chemical translate into an increased experience of pleasure. Like most other commonly abused drugs, tik triggers euphoria by boosting the limbic system’s dopamine levels.

However, while some drugs produce relatively modest dopamine increases (two to four times above normal), tik produces an extreme dopamine boost (12 to 13 times above normal). This extreme effect largely accounts for the highly addictive nature of the drug.

“Tik also affects the pre-frontal cortex which affects the ability to make decisions, forge healthy human connections and to have empathy. This changes the pre-frontal cortex’s control over the amygdala and results in feelings of paranoia. Addicts may think someone is out to get them, that lies are being spread about them, that their possession are being stolen or that their lives are in danger,” says Karen.

This fear often causes violent behaviour in habitual users.

Wedge Gardens rehab centre has a holistic three-month programme run by professionals who are equipped to deal with the complexities of drug and alcohol addiction. As challenging as it is, it is possible to get clean and recover from the personal losses suffered through addiction – whether these losses are physical, psychological, emotional, social or financial.

“Recovery is a lifelong process that needs holistic rehabilitation. It takes commitment and motivation to want a healthy and normal life again,” she says.

Wedge Gardens can be contact at 011 430 0320 or visit the website www.wedgegardens.co.za

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Synthetic drugs, the monster creeping in and killing our youth

The recent videos that have created a storm across social media highlight the dangers facing our children.

Several children who smoked what was an unknown substance had to be rushed to hospital where they were treated for symptoms including seizures, psychosis, nausea, vomiting and hallucinations. At least 14 people were hospitalised after smoking the substance on the last weekend in October.

Karen Griessel, a social worker at Wedge Gardens rehab centre in Johannesburg, said that the increasing popularity of potentially-deadly synthetic herbs is a massive concern. Particularly worrying is the number of young children who expose themselves to synthesised chemicals while experimenting with what they often think are natural herbs.

The message is clear: Stay away from any substance similar to marijuana because one hit could land you in hospital.

In October 2016, Karen spoke out about patients who had used these cannabinoids,  also called K2, Spice or Herb Blend, amongst other names. She also went undercover to prove how easy it is to purchase the substance.

“My concerns regarding this unregulated substance is that it is freely available and because the chemical compound changes in every other batch produced, it is a difficult task to pinpoint, prevent and, especially, to treat.

“However, the symptoms of smoking these herbs have obviously escalated to a whole new level which should not be underestimated – as illustrated so graphically in the videos currently doing the rounds.

“I think it is of major importance that a national education campaign around these substances be held. We need to protect our children and loves ones. The younger generations, many of whom are still naïve, are most vulnerable.”

She says the symptoms – violent temper tantrums, aggression, irrational behaviour, impaired mobility, slurred speech, panic attacks, seizures, reduced or elevated blood pressure, delusion, confusion and psychosis – are of grave concern.

“There are also rumours that the synthetic herbs are being laced with Flakka which could have terrifying outcomes because both are extremely dangerous drugs.”

Flakka is a synthetic drug but a cathinone similar to cocaine and bath salts (psychoactive designer drug). Symptoms include hyperactivity, strength, agitation, delirium and psychosis, changes in heart rate, cardiomyopathy and heart attacks.

“Now can you imagine mixing this deadly cocktail? More should be done across all sectors to safeguard our citizens. And citizens should be made aware and educated whilst the shops selling these products so openly should be exposed.

“Please use this information and share with others so we can be empowered to fight this enemy. If you have any information regarding these drugs and the shops selling them, please do the right thing and report it.”

Wedge Gardens can be contacted at 011 430 0320. You can also ‘like’ Wedge Gardens on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WedgeGardensTreatmentCentre) or visit their website – www.wedgegardens.co.za

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