Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jun 2003
Source: Cape Times (South Africa)
Copyright: 2003 Cape Times.
Authors: Monika Tjia and Adrianna					
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Heroin has joined dagga and Mandrax as one of the three top drugs and their 
usage, educators and counsellors say, will be the next pandemic among 
adolescents in the Western Cape.

"The experimentation rate among teens is 45%, if not higher," said Damien 
Johnson of the Drug Education Centre, a school outreach organisation.

"Because they are young, they lack an insight into what the world has to 
offer and they fall into addiction at a higher percentage than people over 25."

Dagga was once most popular on the Cape Flats, but children from all areas 
are now using the drug. About 80% of South Africa's dagga supply ended up 
in the Western Cape, said Johan Smit, of the police narcotics bureau.

Whereas heroin was once seen as an upper-class drug, the recent drop in the 
street price from about R200 a gram to around R160 had made it accessible 
to many more teenagers, he said. It had become increasingly popular among 
young girls and was the third most-used drug among teenagers.

"Sometimes they set out to use it to be thinner," said Carry Bekker, 
programme director at the Stepping Stones Addiction Centre. "But if you ask 
them, they'll say that it's what everyone is doing."

As teenagers struggle to support their habits by making "fast money", 
drug-related crime rates are soaring, according to the drug abuse research 
group of the Medical Research Centre (MRC).

The MRC's study last year found that 45% of people arrested for crimes 
tested positive for at least one drug.

"A child is not in the position financially to support his habit," Smit 
said. "One of the reasons the crime rate is so high is that if (a 
youngster) needs to buy his two Mandrax tablets a day, he will rob you. He 
will steal your TV or VCR."

Gangs controlled most drug supplies and adolescents were recruited in 
school grounds, said Jacobus Nomdou, director of Teen Challenge, a 
rehabilitation centre in Kuils River.

"Children sell substances on school campuses. (Schools are) the major 
trading area for substances in the Cape metropole." The Department of 
Education requires schools to follow a life orientation curriculum to teach 
children about the effects of drugs.

But pupils were often unable to relate to older teachers who lacked the 
training to discuss drug problems, said Tyron Georgiades, 20, a former 
addict who works with the department.

"I say to teachers, 'Do any of you know what an 'outfit' is?'. The teachers 
. don't know. And I say to the students, 'Do any of you know what an 
outfit is?' And 30% ... put their hands up."

The Drug Education Centre uses young people to talk to pupils about their 
experiences with drugs, abortion and other lifestyle choice matters.

"It's an amazing response we get ... because we experienced drugs and know 
what we're talking about," Georgiades said.

But schools didn't always have the money to offer programmes like the Drug 
Education Centre and these were struggling to function without government 
aid, Johnson said.

Money is also an issue for those seeking rehabilitation. Teen Challenge 
charged clients R300 a month, whereas some centres charged R30 000 for six 
weeks, Nomdou said. There were 120 people on Teen Challenge's waiting list.

The Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre is a non-governmental rehabilitation 
centre for lower-income groups. About 79% of its clients are unemployed, 
its director, Grant Jardine, says.

"We have to find R1.2 million a year or support from communities to keep 
the doors open."
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