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CityPress - - The Good Guide - Trending@city­press.co.za

The fun­da­men­tal el­e­ments of the lethal drug cock­tail whoonga, also called nyaope, are brown heroin, dagga, co­caine and an­tiretro­vi­rals, but since sur­fac­ing in Dur­ban’s in­ner city in 2010, the ex­act com­po­nents and ra­tios within a “straw” of whoonga have de­pended on a dealer’s imag­i­na­tion. Rat poison, laun­dry de­ter­gent, clean­ing sup­plies and con­tra­cep­tive pills are only some of the known in­gre­di­ents deal­ers have used to beef up a hit. What is not up for in­ter­pre­ta­tion, how­ever, is the pow­er­ful ad­dic­tive­ness of the drug. Just a few straws are said to be enough to en­snare a user. Heroin is phys­i­cally ad­dic­tive and a big part of the pull. Whoonga comes equipped with painful side ef­fects. One blog­ger de­scribed a “ter­ri­ble claw­ing sen­sa­tion from in­side the place where your stom­ach used to be” af­ter us­ing the drug, and some are re­ported to have died from ex­cru­ci­at­ing stom­ach cramps and acute pain else­where in the body. Other side ef­fects in­clude vi­o­lent ag­gres­sion, anx­i­ety, and a de­crease in heart rate and lung func­tion. Ac­cord­ing to a Vice doc­u­men­tary ti­tled Get­ting High on HIV Med­i­ca­tion, traces of strych­nine, a po­tent rat poison, cause the sharp phys­i­cal pain as­so­ci­ated with smok­ing whoonga, and the mor­phine­like el­e­ment in the heroin eases it. So the only im­me­di­ate way to ease these symp­toms is another whoonga-in­duced high. Since the whoonga high only lasts about 20 min­utes, the av­er­age user needs about seven hits a day, or one ev­ery four hours or so, at a cost of about R25 per straw. The clutch of ad­dic­tion of­ten leads des­per­ate users to seek out al­ter­na­tive means to feed their habit. There are sev­eral re­ports of HIV-pos­i­tive in­di­vid­u­als be­ing robbed for their ARV med­i­ca­tion, which is then used in whoonga con­coc­tions. A doc­tor fea­tured in the Vice doc­u­men­tary re­counts his clinic be­ing robbed by users ea­ger to get their hands on his sup­ply of the med­i­ca­tion. In Dur­ban, places such as King Din­uzulu Park near the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict be­came hot­beds for rob­beries and crime as whoonga ad­dicts and deal­ers set­tled into the space. The SA Po­lice Ser­vice led a sweep­ing op­er­a­tion in the sum­mer of 2014 that re­sulted in the ar­rests of 91 peo­ple and the dis­place­ment of hun­dreds more. Af­ter the scene, the po­lice searched the park for whoonga, only to come away empty-handed. Nei­ther the drug nor the drug deal­ers were found. Whoonga has since made its way from Dur­ban to other ma­jor cities and town­ships through­out South Africa, and chil­dren as young as 10 are re­port­edly now us­ing it. De­spite the dam­age the drug has in­flicted upon black com­mu­ni­ties, ac­cess to treat­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tres re­mains lim­ited, and of­ten nonex­is­tent.

PHOTO: GALLO

LETHAL STRAW Heroin, dagga, ARVs and to­bacco are the ba­sic in­gre­di­ents of whoonga, also known as nyaope

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