Hillbrow Heroin Capital
20 000 Heroin-users in inner city.
Allegation Hillbrow is South Africa’s unofficial heroin capital with 20000 people using heroin daily according to figures supplied by support groups.
Published: 2010/11/15 05:52:49 PM
According to David Bayever, Deputy Chairperson of the Central Drug Authority says there are about 120 000 South Africans who are using heroin or its various derivatives, in South Africa.
“The highest incidence is with heroin.. I cannot give the exact statistics of heroin on its own. The reports are not actually the true reflection of statistics because we certainly know that there is a lot that is going on which has not been reported. It is a conservative figure and it probably be worse if we are aware of all the different places where heroin is being used,” Bayever said.
Business Day has taken a closer look at the inner city malaise of hard drugs and found that up to 20 000 people are now thought to be hooked on heroin in the area.
Charles Rossouw a Pretoria based pharmacist is on a solo mission to lend a hand to Hillbrow heroin addicts.
Rossouw wants to set up a needle and syringe exchange programme where heroin drug addicts can bring used needles and swap them for new needles.
“The number includes people who live in Hillbrow and those who come and buy drugs daily basis,” Rossouw said.
Rossouw says the project is about giving drug addicts the services they need.
“What motivated me is that we have seen a dismal success rate with the recovery of people who use drugs. It is known that 85% of the people who use drugs never become addicted, it is only 15% of people that eventually get addicted. Out of those 15% most of them are probably not ready or not able to stop using drugs.
“So what we need to do is provide people who use drugs with services like education, health and mental health services to help them stay as healthy as possible until they are ready to quit using drugs,” he said.
Rossouw says people who use drugs in Hillbrow come from diverse backgrounds.
“The vulnerable groups are probably women and black men. 80% of the people include black people, white people and Indian people who use heroin or has injected recently. Needle sharing is quite common in Hillbrow. There two prices for needle, one is R4,50 if you buy at the pharmacy and the other price is R2,50 if you buy a needle from a friend,” he said.
“The increasing injection of drugs leads to a high risk of HIV infection amongst injecting drug users.”
“If the needle gets used by two different people shortly after the other then there is definitely a very big chance of getting infected. It is the most effective way of transmitting HIV from one person to another person. We need to provide service to people who use drugs so that we can address health issues of the community as a whole,” Rossouw warned.
Bayever who is also Head of Pharmacotherapy and Pharmacy Practice at Wits Medical School concurred with Rossouw saying the sharing of needles can lead to a spread of HIV virus and other blood born diseases.
Miro Patcha, a heroin addict who spends most of his time around Hillbrow says a needle exchange programme is a good idea.
“Absolutely brilliant, I have seen documentaries on this needle exchange while working overseas. I think it’s the only way to go. It will help to bring the crime rate down,” Patcha said.
However, Patcha spends R250 to R300 a day on drugs.
“Once you start trying with the heroin you get hooked. It’s too much of a pleasure and easy to enter a state of bliss where you forget all your problems especially if you have problems,” he said.
But Bayever warned that the needle exchange programme could exacerbate the problem of heroin abuse.
“The needle exchange problem on its own could lead to a exacerbation of the problem where the person now knows that he is got clean needles therefore he is saying to himself that i can carry on using heroin,” he warned.
He says the needle exchange problem is a very small facets of the approach that needs to be embraced if we are going to fight the heroin problem.
Bayever warned: “The problem with heroin abuse is that it is probably the most difficult of all the addictions to fight and rehabilitate. The physical and psychological addiction is so great that it is very, very difficult for heroin addicts to survive without the drug.”
Government Spokesperson Themba Maseko says an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) is to be established to co-ordinate and support the launch of a national campaign to strengthen measures to combat substance abuse in South Africa.
Maseko says the IMC would also consider fast-tracking departmental action plans to curb substance and alcohol abuse in communities.
“The campaign would raise awareness about substance abuse to strengthen existing programmes to address problems of substance abuse in parts of the country.
“The IMC would comprise of the ministers of correctional services, science and technology, trade and industry, basic education, health, higher education and training, and economic development. The minister of social development would convene the IMC,” he said.
VIDEO-Heroin addicts in Hillbrow
VIDEO-120 000 people using heroin in South Africa