Nyaope addicts increase in Ermelo

drugThe notorious drug known as nyaope or whoonga has now made its way to small towns like Ermelo and it is currently consuming many lives of young people in this town.

Nyaope is a whitish powder that contains heroin, detergent, rat poison and various medicines including at times an antiretroviral called efavirenz. The drug is easily accessible and costs R30 to R40 for a packet.  People who buy it usually mix it with dagga and then smoke it. This drug is highly addictive and people who are addicted to it live chaotic lives revolving around getting the next fix.

Ermelo’s addicts are no different. They steal, some are involved in prostitution and some get involved in illegal mining  just to get the next fix.

Esther Mofomme, a senior medical social worker at Ermelo Provincial Hospital, says the number of  people using the drug is increasing in Ermelo. Addicts get hospitalized for 3-4 days for a detox programme even though this hospital is not designated to run such a programme but have to offer the service because of the growing number of addicts.

Siphamandla Dlamini*, 21, a recovering drug addict said “I started using nyaope on 2010. I started smoking cigarettes then my friends introduced me to dagga  and there was a new drug and my friends were smoking it so that’s how I started and I was hooked.”

He also said he tried quitting but the withdrawal symptoms, which are stomach cramps, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, were unbearable.

Thabiso Mahlangu* said “I have been using nyaope for four years now and it’s hard to stop, my health has been affect by this, and I have difficultly breathing now.”

Sizakele Mahlangu, Thabiso’s mother, said: “my son will do anything to get money for the drug and he gets high all the time.”

The department sends addicts under the age of 18 to Alathia rehabilitation centre in Piet Retief in Mkhondo sub-district. This rehabilitation centre is free.

Swartfotein rehabilitation centre accommodates over eighteens. It situated in Ehlanzeni district and costs R20 a day. The rehabilitation programme ranges between 14 – 16 weeks. The state pays for those who can’t afford to pay.

The Department of Social Services has an outreach programme that educates leaners in schools about the dangers of using drugs and to educate people about the rehabilitation programme. Elizabeth Mathenjwa a mother who’s son is addicted to this drug said “My son has lost so much weight since he started using this drug. He gets sick when he doesn’t smoke the drug he depends on this drug.”

Addicts can go for days without food and that weakens their immune systems thus making it easy for them to contract infections.

Sifiso Sibeko is a recovering drug addict who is a member of maAfrica Sizanani, a non-profit organisation that started in Newcastle in 2010. He is currently assisting addicts who want to stop using by taking them to rehabilitation centres that practise the 12-step programme to recovery. They also raise funds for those who can’t afford to pay rehabilitation fees.


•           Some of the names in this story have been changed to protect people’s identities.


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