SA’s Afghan drug effect

2014-04-21 00:00

CHEAP drugs such as whoonga, which has become easily accessible in South Africa, are a result of an overproduction of opium in Afghanistan since 2006.

This is according to Brian Moral­es, global drug abuse expert in the U.S. State Department who spoke at a recent meeting of the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (Sanca).

Morales said that this year alone, the country produced twice the amount of opium that the world could consume. “As a result, the prices of opium and heroin have been falling. In the developing countries of South Asia, street children find opium as affordable as traditional inhalants like paint thinners and glues,” he added.

Pietermaritzburg Sanca director Lin Geber, who reported on the meeting to her local committee, said that Morales noted with concern the introduction of such drugs as whoonga in South Africa.

He pointed out that in Africa, cocaine, cannabis and opioids were being mixed with new psychoactive substances and other household substances to make new toxic substances.

Geber said that it is believed whoonga has come into widespread use in South Africa since around 2010. Although much has been written about the drug containing anti-retroviral drugs, its base is a mixture of dagga and heroin.

Morales expressed concern that while there was more drug use in developing countries, there was no corresponding increase in resources for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. He added that there were many drug rehabilitation centres springing up but these were not scientifically based, like the tried and tested methods used by such national programmes as Sanca.

“As a result, people in many countries were losing faith in treatment, because unscientific practices were not moving people to recovery. Soon their families and communities start to believe treatment does not work and soon after policy makers will start to believe this as well.”

Morales said the solution was to restore faith in treatment by disseminating the scientific research that our countries have pioneered.

He noted that SA was also a global leader in drug treatment research through the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use. “The work of Dr Charles Parry and his colleagues is admired and respected,” Morales said.

He said that there should be training with examinations and a certification process for people working in the field of drug rehabilitation to professionalise treatment staff, like any other medical field.

Sanca has called for further research into the medicinal use of marijuana (dagga). This follows IFP Member of Parliament Mario Ambrosini tabling a medical innovation bill to legalise the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Ambrosini has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Geber said that the organisation’s stance on the matter was in line with current legislation, adding that it was important to note that dagga was not harmless. A statement put out by the organisation noted that a third of all patients treated at Sanca nationally during the past year used marijuana alone or in combination with other substances.

The statement said that international studies strongly supported evidence that dagga was a “gateway drug”, to other drug abuse.

“There is no conclusive evidence that the medicinal use of marijuana would be any more effective that the medications which are currently registered with the Medicines Control Council. Further research in this regards is necessary,” the statement said.

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