Dur­ban drug­gies smok­ing ARVs

‘WHOONGA’: Scary new high in­cludes dagga and rat poi­son

Weekend Witness - - News - JERUSHA SUKHDEO

DRUG users in Dur­ban have taken to smok­ing a mix­ture of the anti-retro­vi­ral drug stocrin, dagga andother sub­stances such as rat poi­son for a dan­ger­ous high.

Whoonga, as it has be­come known, is be­ing blamed for a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the num­ber of drug users over the past year.

While au­thor­i­ties have cited whoonga as a pro­vin­cial prob­lem, cases of us­age ap­pear to be iso­lated to Dur­ban and its close sur­round­ing ar­eas.

Pi­eter­mar­itzburg’s branch of the South African Na­tional Coun­cil on Al­co­holism and Drug De­pen­dence (Sanca) con­firmed the ex­is­tence of the drug, but ad­mit­ted to hav­ing lit­tle in­for­ma­tion at this stage, as it is not preva­lent in the city.

Af­ter con­sul­ta­tion with the SAPF’s or­gan­ised crime unit, War­rant Of­fi­cer Joey Jee­van said — while po­lice were aware of the drug and its us­age pat­terns — no cases have been iden­ti­fied in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg.

Lead­ing drug rehabilitation cen­tres in and around the city also said no whoonga-re­lated cases had pre­sented them­selves at the in­sti­tu­tions to date.

Al­though whoonga ap­pears scarce in the area, the SAPF main­tain the sit­u­a­tion is be­ing care­fully mon­i­tored.

Ac­cord­ing to Raj Naidoo, pharma- cist for the drug rehabilitation in­sti­tu­tion the Shek­inah Care Cen­tre, the drug had not pre­sented it­self at the cen­tre. “I have heard of the com­bi­na­tion of anti-retro­vi­rals and other sub­stances, but it has not been com­mon in the area,” he said.

Naidoo cau­tioned, how­ever, that smok­ing ARVs would have se­vere im­pacts on the body.

“Smok­ing an ARV is se­ri­ous; it would se­ri­ously af­fect bod­ily func­tions and meta­bolic pro­cesses.

“And while we have an idea of what one drug may do to the body, a com­bi­na­tion of in­haled sub­stances is even more dan­ger­ous,” he added.

Al­though lit­tle re­search has been con­ducted on the ef­fects of whoonga on the body, Naidoo de­scribed the side ef­fects and dam­ages of the drug as “dras­tic”.

Re­ports sug­gest the drug may cause users to lose their ap­petites, bleed when uri­nat­ing and sweat ex­ces­sively.

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