Whoonga addicts can’t afford to quit due to high cost of treatment
EXPERTS have warned that the cost of treating whoonga addiction is not affordable for most users.
There is medication called Suboxone that is effective as a treatment but it is expensive, said Wayne Hadley, an addiction counsellor at Step Away Treatment Centre in Port Elizabeth.
“One capsule costs around R80 to R100 and it would have to be taken three times a day for seven days, which makes it expensive and unaffordable,” said Hadley.
Hadley said whoonga is made up of rat poison, brown heroin, marijuana, tik, antiretroviral drugs (HIV & Aids medication), household detergents, ammonia and chlorine.
“The strychnine in rat poison causes excruciating pain in the stomach when the painkilling effects of heroin has worn off, and then the user has to smoke more whoonga to relieve this pain,” said Hadley. “The use of heroin with ARVs puts them in a paralysed state, where they freeze and are unable to move or speak,” he said.
Hadley also said whoonga addicts would do anything to get the next “fix”, including committing crime.
“The drugs make the user fearless ... this makes it easy for them to commit crimes because all they care about is how they will [get away] after committing the crime,” said Hadley.
Pietermaritzburg’s Kelda Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre psychologist Raksha Singh said it is nearly impossible to withdraw from whoonga without proper medication.
“If the government could provide the medication for the withdrawal then there would be a great decrease in the number of people using the drug and crime would also decrease,” said Singh.
KwaZuluNatal Department of Social Development spokesperson Vukani Mbhele said that the department provides funding to nonprofit organisations that deal with drug addiction as a way of fighting whoonga.
“The department has three rehabilitation centres in place to assist addicts who come seeking help, one is in Dur ban and the other two are in Newcastle,” said Mbhele.
“The problem we are facing is that people do not come forward for help and we cannot force them. But if they come to us they do get help,” he said.
Pietermaritzburg’s Ayanda Khanyile, who is a whoonga user, said that social workers do approach them and promise to assist with the addiction but after that nothing is being done.
“Social workers approach us and tell us they are going to help. We are told to write down our names they will come to us on a specific date and that never happens,” said Khanyile.
“If the government would step in and assist us we would definitely stop using this because this is not life,” he said.
Phindile Mkhize, who is also a user, said that their families will not be able to afford the medication because it is very expensive.
“We are not coming from financially stable backgrounds so this medication is unaffordable for our families,” said Mkhize.
A young man smokes whoonga.