Whoonga ‘a big na­tional con­cern’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - LEILA SAMODIEN and MA­SOOD BOOM­GAARD

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.“

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