‘ARVs don’t cause whoonga high’

2011-03-16 00:00

WHAT is in the drug whoonga that is causing increasing concern in KwaZulu-Natal and across South Africa?

The issue was raised by President Jacob Zuma, who told a summit on substance abuse in Durban yesterday: “Experts from the University of KwaZulu-Natal have found that whoonga does not contain ARVs, but is made up of heroin mixed with rat poison and other chemicals”.

He said that perpetuating the myth that ARVs are used for whoonga is dangerous as it may make drug addicts steal ARVs, which would put the lives of people on treatment for HIV at risk.

Asked for comment, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) researcher Catherine Thomlinson said it has been proven that there are instances where drug addicts add antiretroviral drugs to whoonga.

“However, it must be noted that the hallucinogenic and addictive substances in whoonga are heroin, dagga and a mixture of substances such as rat poison and detergents.

“There’s no evidence that it is ARVs that put people on a high. That has not been tested,” said Thomlinson.

Health-e News recently quoted Dr Thavendran Govender of the university’s chemistry department as saying there were trace amounts of ARVs in one of the samples of whoonga she tested.

Carol du Toit of the SA National Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Sanca) said whoonga initially referred to a combination of dagga and ARVs.

She said it appears that many use the name for a mixture of dagga and heroin, and also for mixtures containing dagga, heroin and substances such as rat poison and detergents.

Du Toit said ARVs as drugs of abuse are at this stage not widely researched.

Although there is no evidence that ARVs such as Stocrin create a high, criminals are said to be robbing Aids patients of life-saving drugs for the manufacture of whoonga.

Nancy Fias, community outreach facilitator at St Mary’s Hospital in Mariannhill, said a number of their patients have been robbed of their ARVs, while others are selling their medication to dealers.


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