Every child in South Africa will have come into contact with drugs by the time they leave secondary school. One in three will have taken them. Increasingly, the drug of choice is heroin.
In 1996, one percent of South Africans were in treatment for heroin abuse while, in 2008, those in treatment for this addiction increased between 8 – 24% (CDA). Drug abuse has broken out of well-defined localized addict communities, and infiltrated all strata of society.
It’s in poor communities that heroin addiction is sweeping out of control and users are getting younger and younger. This week, Special Assignment goes undercover in Mabopane, north of Pretoria, where the smoking of ‘Nyaope’ ‘ a cheap form of heroin ‘ has taken hold amongst the township’s youth. We discover that the drug is just as easy to get at schools, as on the streets.
In the words of one young woman: ‘It’s killing our generation, because the majority of boys are no longer going to school. It means we won’t have doctors in the future, lecturers and presidents. That drug, I can say, is the devil. Like the devil, it is here to destroy and it’s targeting these youngsters.’
Part of the problem is that the drug is so easily available. The police and other authorities were warned about the problem of ‘Nyaope’ over five years ago, but did nothing to clamp down on dealers. Today, school kids are getting caught in the grip of a savage addiction and never make it into the classroom. Their futures destroyed in a heroin daze.
This documentary, produced by Health-e, was first aired on SABC 3 Special Assignment on Monday, 14 March 2011.