Pubdate: Tue, 28 Jun 2016
Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)
Copyright: 2016 Cape Argus.
Author: Barbara Cole


Project Seeks to Break the Cycle of Trauma With New Solutions

FIFTY drug addicts are to take part in pioneering substitution 
therapy trials, using methadone in a bid to wean them off 
whoonga/heroin. The ground-breaking demonstration project is 
scheduled to start in October and will last 18 months. It will 
evaluate improvements to drug addicts' quality of life 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 will 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 the "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.

Sunday's gathering, hosted by the Urban Futures Centre, and attended 
by 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. Innovation "What is required is support 
that breaks the 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 percent 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 5000 and 7000 whoonga users in the Durban area, 
Marks said later.

Psychiatrist Dr Hemant Nowbath, an executive member of the South 
African Addiction Medicine Society, said the country spent more money 
enforcing laws against drug addicts than on treating them.

Former heroin addict, Nombulelo Dlamini, 28, told how she had left 
her home in Hammarsdale for Durban after she had been bullied at 
school and did not want to tell her parents what was happening.

Because of peer pressure, she started sniffing glue and then started 
on heroin/ whoonga without realising what she was getting into.

At the beginning "it was cool... but as you go on, you realise you 
are digging your own grave", she said.

She said in an interview earlier that it took her a week to get hooked.

"When you don't smoke it, you get sick, you get stomach cramps, your 
whole body is weak, your ears and nose bleeds and you get headaches."

Dlamini kicked her addiction with the help of the Denis Hurley Centre in Durban.
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