Whoonga ‘a big national concern’
A NEW drug trends is whoonga, a concoction that is usually smoked.
Local drug counselling services said it was not yet a problem in Cape Town, but national Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele recently described it as a “big national concern”.
Originally a mixture of antiretrovirals (ARVs) and dagga, it is now different mixes of heroin, dagga, ammonia and even rat poison.
Some dealers also add tik and headache tablets to the mix.
A member of the police’s Organised Crime Unit in KwaZulu-Natal said: “The drug dealers add all sorts of stuff to the heroin, the primary ingredient, just to increase the mass of the drug when it’s sold and make the heroin go further. A lot of the stuff has no effect and users have no idea what’s going in.”
Some KwaZulu-Natal experts say whoonga is just a new name for sugars. “We discovered about a year ago that the sugars drug had its name changed. Whoonga is not a new drug; it is sugars being sold under a different name, a rebranding,” said Dr Anwar Jeewa, a drug expert and head of the Minds Alive drug rehabilitation centre in Durban.
Carol du Toit, the Durban director of the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca), said it was a growing problem in townships.
“Whoonga use appears to be largely township-based at this stage. No accurate statistics are available, although Sanca Durban has noticed a steady increase in patients presenting for treatment who use this drug.”
Ntombi Zonke, the Treatment Action Campaign’s communications and research co-ordinator in KwaZulu-Natal, said the drug sold for R20 a gram and was often “spiced up” with ARVs and dagga.
“We don’t know where they’re getting the ARVs. We think they may be stealing them, but we have no proof.“