Nyaope, known as whoonga, is a street drug that has affected many lives. The substance, often described as a cocktail of various ingredients, is highly addictive and often leaves its addicts hopeless and ill.
Nico Denus Molefe from Klipgat in Pretoria, shares his story with us.
It started in 2007 when I lost my job. I became desperate for money and I attempted to sell nyaope. In less than three months as a dealer, I became addicted to the drug. The addiction started the day I decided to try out the drug.
I continued smoking it for six years and ended up living on the streets of Marabastad. Depression, unemployment and a lack of skills are factors that contributed to me abusing the drug. I decided I wanted to change my life for the better because I didn’t like the life we were living in Marabastad. I would see people die and I realised the years were passing by and so was my age. I needed to change.
In 2013 there was a drug campaign organised by the City of Tshwane where social workers, prison wardens and government officials came to speak to us about the dangers of nyaope and drug abuse. After their presentation they told us they would return to take us to a rehabilitation centre.
In fear of them not returning, I approached the officials and insisted they take me to the facility immediately. They agreed to take me and 17 other addicts. They took us to the Dr Fabian and Florence Ribeiro Treatment Centre where we received treatment and stayed for the programme. In January 2015 I completed the programme and I’ve been clean since.
I’m now a ward committee member, a hospitality management student and I’m involved in a campaign called the Clean-Up Squad. We fight issues that affect the youth in our community.
Withdrawals from nyaope are very painful: you can’t sleep at night because all you want to do is smoke the drug. Nothing can replace the high one gets from the drug except for the drug itself, that’s it’s so addictive. Your body starts to crave it and you eventually experience the withdrawal symptoms.
I want to tell nyaope addicts that being addicted doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. There are people willing to help and it’s possible to turn your lives around by being involved in your communities and being examples to others.