Heroin eruption about to engulf capital's youth

Date: 01 Mar 2007
And there's nothing sweet about a killer concoction named Sugars Pretoria is facing a drug abuse epidemic as narcotics worth billions of rands are trafficked through the country every year. This is according to the Tshwane metro police and drug clinics, who fear that the use of drugs - especially heroin - is about to explode in the capital. Schoolchildren, they say, could bear the brunt of lethal street narcotics cocktails. The fears were voiced as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the international narcotics control board's annual report in Pretoria yesterday. The report highlighted alarming levels of narcotics being trafficked through South Africa, with UNODC regional representative Dr Jonathon Lucas saying the 2010 World Cup would see drug traffickers going all-out to ply their trade. Warning of the imminent "explosion", Superintendent Mark Newham, the Tshwane metro police drug enforcement commander, said the entire city was facing a crisis. "The most terrifying thing Pretoria faces is the number of youngsters using hard drugs such as heroin," Newham said. Their biggest fear was over Sugars, a new, lethal drug cocktail set to hit Pretoria's streets and schools. Sugars is a combination of Rattex, cocaine and heroin. Newham said that when Sugars hit the city "we are going see drug deaths like Pretoria has not seen before". Rattex is mixed with heroin and cocaine because it thins the stomach's lining, allowing the drug to be absorbed quickly into a person's system. "This drug will ravage our city's youth, as it has done in Durban. It is a lethal concoction which is going to kill. "It is just a matter of time before the first users start dying," he said. He said other major concerns include the increase in the use of nyaope - a combination of heroin and dagga - and tik (chrystalmeth), which is produced in Gauteng and distributed throughout the country and internationally. Newham said people flocked to Pretoria to buy heroin and Cat (poor man's cocaine), which was the best quality in the country. Vista Clinic drug rehabilitation social worker Monika dos Santos said Pretoria had a serious drug problem, especially with hard narcotics. A large proportion of those treated at the clinic were young people, with a big percentage of them coming from the city's drugs hotspot of Centurion. "We are alarmed by the increase in the number of people seeking help, especially for heroin abuse," she said, adding that a large number were young business executives. Stabilis Treatment Centre director Tobie Visser said narcotics abuse was of serious concern in Pretoria. "We are alarmed at the increase in heroin abuse, especially among the youth," he said, adding that Pretoria had the highest incidence of heroin use in South Africa. Dr Elca Erlank, a therapist at the centre, said they were receiving more and more calls for help from parents with children as young as 14. "This indicates that more and more younger people are using hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine," she said. Erlank said that in the past, 20% of the people seeking help from the centre for assistance in kicking their habits were drug addicts. "This has increased to 50%. "If you look at the speed of the increase in drug users, then it is clear that this scourge is exploding," she said. BY Graeme Hosken The Star 01/03/07