USE of the debilitating drug tik has exploded in Nelson Mandela Bay, with experts saying it has become the drug of choice among youth due to its availability and affordability.
While there are no official statistics on the severity of the problem, Shepherd‘s Field Rehabilitation Centre outside Port Elizabeth reports that tik addicts now account for 57 per cent of its patients.
And the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) in Port Elizabeth said its number of addicts on tik had more than doubled in the last six months.
As the second cheapest drug on the streets after dagga, tik has saturated the city‘s poorest communities.
The drug can get a buyer a “high” for just R20, but experts warn it causes parts of the brain to “dissolve” after prolonged use.
Tik is made up primarily of crystal methamphetamine, but can also include a number of household products such as anti-freeze, slimming drugs, rat poison and household cleaning products.
Sanca information, training and education co-ordinator Zarina Ghulam said the drug had infiltrated the northern areas of Port Elizabeth specifically and that the number of users was growing rapidly.
“From July to December last year, we‘ve seen a huge jump of tik users coming to us for treatment.
“It went from 3,1% to 7,2% in those six months. Although we do not have the latest figures available for the last couple of months, I can definitely say the numbers are growing rapidly.
“The majority of the people who come to us for tik abuse are from the northern areas and it‘s moving to Uitenhage.”
Tik was first identified as a potential problem in the Bay two years ago when gangsters were being paid for poached perlemoen with tik by Cape Town crime barons.
Shepherd‘s Field chief executive Gerrie Cronje said the number of tik users at their centre accounted for 57% of people admitted for substance abuse.
Although a number of these addicts came from Cape Town, the majority were from the Nelson Mandela Bay area.
Reinhardt Coetsee, director of Rei‘s Place House of Recovery at Greenbushes in Port Elizabeth, said it was evident that tik was a fast growing problem in the city.
“Although it hasn‘t hit PE as bad as Cape Town, it is definitely a major concern and the problem is escalating.”
Humewood Community Police Forum chairman John Preller said the number of tik users attending his group meetings was increasing.
“We‘re definitely seeing an upward trend. Numbers are increasing drastically and the alarming thing is that it is younger people between the ages of 18 and 25.
“Tik has found its way to PE from Cape Town and we can no longer say it‘s coming, because it‘s here, and it‘s growing.
“The scary thing is that people only seek help when their lives become unmanageable, when the problem is at its worst.”
Aaron Liddell, a recovering tik addict at Shepherd‘s Field, said he was able to buy tik on nearly every street corner as it was so freely available.
“I can get it from the guy down the street or go to any of the coloured areas and buy it. It‘s everywhere. It‘s even in schools and prisons.”
Ghulam said it had devastating long-term effects on the body, although tik users were often swindled by the initial feelings of euphoria, increased energy and self-confidence.
“One client who came in for treatment ended up in hospital. They discovered he had holes in his brain because of the tik and he had to have two brain surgeries. They couldn‘t do anything to repair his brain, so he died.”
She said tik users were prone to HIV/Aids because the drug heightened arousal, which could lead to high-risk sexual behaviour.
Preller said it caused extreme aggression, which often led to uncontrollable violence. “Just recently, I heard from a parent who said her son beat her because of his tik aggression,” he added.
Preller said some of the permanent effects of the toxic drug were that it dissolved the teeth and areas of the brain.
Substance abuse in the northern areas was one of the main reasons for the disintegration of families and gangsterism there, he said.
Tik addiction also had a drastic effect on the economy, and on families, said Preller, with addicts ultimately losing jobs and homes torn apart.
“With tik, they lose their ability to think straight and they end up getting fired.
“Shortly after that they‘ll start breaking into houses or hijacking cars to get money to buy more drugs and most of the time end up in jail.
“You end up losing a strong productive person in the economy, and if you multiply that by the thousands of tik users we see, it results in the loss of thousands of productive people in the economy.”
Source : The Weekend Post