Whoonga ad­dicts can’t af­ford to quit due to high cost of treat­ment

The Witness - - NEWS - VIN­CENT MADLOPHA • vin­cent.madlopha@wit­ness.co.za

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.

PHOTO: KHAYA NGWENYA (FILE)

A young man smokes whoonga.

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