Pubdate: Mon, 27 Jun 2016
Source: Daily News, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2016 The Daily News.
Author: Barbara Cole


FIFTY Durban drug addicts are to take part in pioneering substitution 
therapy trials, using methadone in a bid to wean them off whoonga/heroin.

The groundbreaking demonstration project is scheduled to start in 
October and will last 18 months. It will evaluate improvements to the 
quality of life of drug addicts under treatment, as well as looking 
at the cost-effectiveness of using opioid substitution therapy in the 
state health system .

The provincial and national Departments of Health and the Department 
of Social Development would be watching the outcome, said Professor 
Monique Marks, head of the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban 
University of Technology.

"The hope is that substitution therapy will eventually be rolled out 
in the public sector at government hospitals in Durban and around the 
country," she said.

The methadone will be supplied by a pharmaceutical company with head 
offices in the UK. International support has also been given by the 
Open Society Foundation for a project doctor, while funding still has 
to be found for a social worker.

The Urban Futures Centre, which co-ordinates the KwaZulu-Natal Harm 
Reduction Advocacy Group, will be working on the drug substitution 
therapy project with the TB/HIV Care Association.

Marks was talking on the sidelines of yesterday's "Support, Don't 
Punish" campaign at the Durban University of Technology City Campus 
courtyard, part of a global protest calling on governments for more 
affordable and effective harm reduction responses.

The Durban gathering, hosted by the Urban Futures Centre, and 
attended by some 80 whoonga addicts, many living in local shelters 
and under a nearby bridge, appealed for the decriminalisation of drug use.

South Africa's enforcement approach in dealing with drug use had not 
led to a reduction of it or drug markets, "but instead a growth of 
problematic drug use", Marks said.

"We have got to stop the war on drugs, which is not working, and 
start the support," she said.

"What is required is support that breaks cycles of trauma, disconnect 
and inequality that fuel problematic drug use.

"Harm-reduction services such as needle syringe programmes and opioid 
substitution therapy are examples of innovation solutions which 
contribute to normalising people's lives and making them safer and healthier."

Only about 10% of drug users were problematic users. It was not a 
problem to be dealt with by policing and imprisonment, she told the gathering.

There were between 5 000 and 7 000 whoonga users in the Durban area, 
Marks said later.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom