Heroin usage in SA is increasing

2014-06-26 00:00

HEROIN, according to the United Nation’s drug agency, is the only “illicit drug … associated with a single source” with 90% of the world’s source coming from Afganistan.

By the time heroin reaches South Africa, it has been cut several times by middlemen along the East African coast, diluting its quality.

South Africa was once considered just a conduit for the drug, but now it also final destination point as studies have shown that heroin usage in South Africa is also on the increase.

Durban resident Dr Lochan Naidoo, recently appointed President of the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board, said most of the heroin in South Africa enters the country via road freight from the east coast of Africa.

“Opium is converted to heroin using a chemical called acetic anhydride,” said Naidoo. “It is the same chemical used in manu­facturing paints and other products. Part of what we do is monitor the trade of chemicals used in both normal trade and production of illicit drugs.”

According to Naidoo, there are two types of heroin, namely white and brown. The former is associated with injecting the drug, while the latter is found mixed into concoctions, known as “whoonga” or “nyaope”, and is smoked.

“White heroin can be found in the Durban point area, but generally brown is more prevalent.

“Heroin is landed on the East coast usually with a 60-65% purity. En route to South Africa, this purity is reduced by middlemen. There are no rules in the drug trade on how to bulk or ‘cut’ the product.”

Heroin is from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to the UN, 380 tons of heroin are produced from Afghan poppies and exported all over the world. Most of the heroin in South Africa arrived via south east Africa on road transport. Our ports are also at risk at being infiltrated. Every country that is a thoroughfare for drugs eventually becomes an end destination.

Heroin is made from the resin of poppy plants. Farmers use a blade to laboriously scrape the resin, or raw opium, off each flower’s bulb by hand and then refine the opium into morphine — which can be found as a prescribed painkiller — before it is further refined into various forms of heroin.

A recent report by an alcohol and drug unit in the Medical Research Council stated heroin as the primary drug of abuse, which has increased country wide, except in KwaZulu-Natal.

Sipho Dada, a scientist at the MRA, said regardless of what mixture is used, heroin is the primary ingredient. “We have asked treatment centres to ask patients if they mixed the drug in order for us to build a database,” said Dada.

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