From one drug scourge to the next

2020-02-11 06:00
Children in the Cape Flats are being sold schedule 5 tablets for R3.PHOTO: Mark Nicholson

Children in the Cape Flats are being sold schedule 5 tablets for R3.PHOTO: Mark Nicholson

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The cough-mixture-based drug, lean, has officially taken a backseat to a R3 drug – used by children as young as seven – now available on streets.

Dr Kiran Ranchod of Steenberg Pharmacy supplies medicine to communities battling a grave substance abuse problem.

To address codeine abuse, Ranchod took a drastic step and stopped selling over-the-counter cough syrups.

“If you’re coming to ask me for a bottle of Stilpane, I want to know why. If you’re asking for a bottle of Bronchlear, I want to know what’s going on. Those are all cough-mixtures you can buy over the counter that contain codeine, which gives you the high. But they were using those to mix with other ingredients to give them even more of a high.

“The addiction potential of codeine is something to be aware of,” he explained.

Sgt Wesley Twigg, the spokesperson for Steenberg police, told People’s Post last week that a new substance is being abused on the Cape Flats: Mylan Alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax.

Ranchod explains: “People are now using schedule five anxiolytics to get high. They are only available through prescription.”

According to concerned residents of Lavender Hill and the greater Retreat area, the drugs are being sold at R3 per tablet and children as young as seven are getting their hands on it.

Some learners show telltale signs (being “zombie-like” or zoned out) during class.

Similarly to lean, the users of Alprazolam are taking multiple tablets at a time and chasing them with coke or any other fizzy drink.

Sgt Twigg says they are in talks to find solutions to the problem but, without community cooperation, it will be difficult.

Sharing a similar sentiment, Ranchod said: “Unless each pharmacist takes responsibility and systems are in place and the chains of supply are secured and monitored, nothing is going to change.”

Local pharmacists have considered a localised solution where patient details are logged on a database and shared across pharmacies to track usage.

“The hiccup is that all pharmacies are not linked to each other, so people go hopping to the next one. Not all the pharmacies run the same programmes and there’s the complication of confidentiality and ethics.”

Additionally, Ranchod says the quantity in which the drugs are found – case in point where a woman was nabbed in March last year for the possession of 6000 Stilpane tablets – is indicative of the fact that suppliers are not buying one or two bottles over the counter but rather in bulk.

This leads to questions about whether it could be acquired at factories or from people with direct access to the drug.

Residents have reported that the drug can be purchased in the Lavender Hill flats.

Police urge parents to be vigilant.

  • Anyone with any information can contact Steenberg police on 021 702 9000 or Crime Stop on 08600 10111.

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