“Each and every single time when you wake up, you want the drug. Before you sleep you want the drug,” recalls 20-year-old recovering nyaope addict Lebohang Tieho Neko, perched on the edge of his bed at an NGO-run rehab facility outside Pretoria.

Neko’s drug-induced misbehaviour is seared into his memory: “I turned into a monster…I used to steal from people, I used to rob people, I used to beat people and do kind of bad things that a normal person doesn’t do,” said Neko.

Firmly in his addiction’s grasp, Neko lived off of a Mamelodi dump site, sorting through rubbish for recycling by day to make money to score hits of nyaope by night.

“The drug can affect you to the point where you don’t care about yourself anymore…you just want to feed your addiction,” said Neko.

Nyaope (also called whoonga) is a heroin-based drug mixed with a variety of other substances, including medicine and sometimes even rat poison. Crushed to white powder, it is usually smoked with dagga – and addiction is steadily on the rise in South Africa.

It is particularly popular in the northern parts of South Africa. Tshwane townships are awash with the drug, while Health-e citizen journalists report that it is readily available in Mpumalanga and even villages in Vhembe and villages in Limpopo.

Nyaope pic for web

An addict prepares a fix of nyaope