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Drug addiction endangering lives in South Africa

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Drug addiction in South Africa has reached an alarming level.

In its last annual Drug Awareness campaign week, the government of South Africa released statistical figures which indicate a rising level of drug addiction, including the health and financial implications.

At the event held between, Nathan Rogerson (a representative of Akeso Clinics, a private inpatient hospital providing psychological care to drug addicts) said the establishment is taking care of adults and children, some of who became drug users at an early age of 6.

Rogerson noted that several factors are responsible for the increasing rate of drug abuse in South Africa. He cited high level of unemployment, violence, trauma, and poor social support from the affected families, friends and society.

In his words,” Easy access to high-impact and relatively cheap drugs is a major factor in the rising cases of drug abuse in South Africa.”

Marijuana, the most commonly used drug on South African streets, is also known as “dagga.” Alcohol is another commonly-abused substance in the country although cocaine use has been a worrisome trend since 2008 when records showed a 17.5% upward projection from 1.5% in 1996.

Findings in South Africa show that heroin abuse has mirrored trends in the United States due to its cheap prices and availability in every nook and cranny.

Hard drugs in South Africa have different names but the two most popular synthetic drugs with high consumption rates are “Nyaope” and methcathinone. Drug abusers refer to “Nyaope” as plazanza, kwape or whoonga whereas methcathinone goes by the street names “cat” or “bathtub speed”. These stimulants have spread like wildfire across the country—especially in rural communities and city slums. Additionally, narcotic contents of the drugs are usually paint solvent, baking soda, ephedrine, pesticides, chlorine and sulphuric acid. Other strains of hard drugs consumed in the country contain a mixture of ammonia, meth, marijuana.

Generally, some people depend on hard drugs because they cause psychosis (i.e. a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia which is characterized by defective or lost contact with reality). Some drug abusers depend on the hallucinations they experience as a measure against severe sleep deprivation, but for many others, the fun comes from feelings of euphoria and peace of mind gained after using drugs. Signs of stimulants abuse include: talkativeness, irritability, high levels of energy, dilated pupils, anxiety etc.

Unfortunately, these ongoing drug abuse trends are a menace to the South African society. Apart from the financial toll and link to crimes, drug addiction causes rapid breathing and increased heart rate which, in most cases, end in death. For these reasons, the government of South Africa and other addiction treatment providers have embarked on enlightenment campaigns to reduce impact from the epidemics.

In 2017, a Western Cape High Court ruled that people are allowed grow and consume marijuana in their homes. This controversial ruling was taken to the Supreme Court of Appeal for clarifications while drug users were being arrested for “obeying the laws” by allegedly growing and consuming stimulants.

Medical Marijuana as the ‘Solution’

Issues surrounding the legality and eligibility for using medical marijuana were squashed in 2018 when Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo of the South African Supreme Court ruled that any laws banning private consumption of medical marijuana as unconstitutional.

Marijuana, or oil from the plant, including other derivatives such as tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol have been prescribed for medicinal use in many countries. This approval does not, in any way, decriminalize use of the stimulant unless where licence has been issued. The negative impact of consuming marijuana is currently underplayed in legal and medical domains, especially in the US,  where medical marijuana gained official approval for patients due to its efficacy in treating epilepsy, chronic pain, and some heart conditions.

Similarly, Business Insider in 2019 reported that about 60 South Africans were granted special dispensation to import and use medicines containing cannabis. According to the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), any other person selling or using medicines containing dagga or its derivatives—excluding the licensed individuals—are doing so illegally and at the risk of their lives,

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