There is an increase in the number of drug users in the MMID, drawn to the area by the presence of numerous dealers in the surrounding communities. Users and addicts not only visit the area to obtain their drugs, but some then stay on, to beg and be close to their source. It’s vital for all of us to be fully informed about the facts surrounding this growing problem.
Addicts will move around for various reasons:
- To escape their dealers/creditors.
Most dealers will give a fix or two on credit to keep their customers on board but heroin addicts typically need about R140 a day for their supplies, and the credit quickly dries up. They then resort to begging or stealing.
- To find a new area where they are not known.
Just moving around the corner to another intersection will allow them to target different motorists, or most of them will move to other suburbs around the Peninsula to keep going, and when returning to an old haunt, they depend on change their appearance.
- Criminal activities.
When they go on a ‘wanted’ list in an area they can sometimes move as far as another province to escape arrest
- Often they see a move to another part of the country as an opportunity for a clean start
The result of any move can mean the addict is exploited and abused by their enabler, or the genuinely kind-hearted person offering help for a fresh start becomes burdened with a hopeless situation.
Challenges they face:
- Needle exchange programs are handing out free needles, small plastic bottles of distilled water and a plastic bottle to keep old, used needles. Usually, security and SAPS confiscate and destroy these items during searches. The needles exchange programmes aim to build relationship with addicts by providing the means to prevent the sharing of needles. Using old and shared needles result in infections and the transfer of diseases. By building relationship the referral to a rehab program can be facilitated.
- SANCA is currently the only service provider that will refer to a state subsidised facility. There is however a process to follow with some cost involved. This includes showing up for appointments with a social worker, attending workshops and submitting to regular tests. Most addicts just find this process too long and they cannot stick to the required routine of appointments.
When they do go to rehab, the inpatient program is 8-12 weeks with a detox period before admission. This process is done in a hospital under supervision, to prevent medical emergencies.
Rehab is only the start on the road to sobriety. Most do very well in rehab, but they need to commit to an after-care programme that relies on the support of family or a facility. But post-rehab facilities are all private with a high monthly cost. The aim is to reunite the recovering addict with family, but often their relationships are so broken down that accommodation with family is not an option. After discharge, State patients are referred to shelters where the main purpose is only to provide accommodation on condition of the resident remaining clean.
- Those that do go into rehab, find the cost of a post-rehab facility out of reach and most land up on the street again. While post-rehab facilities help with the transition back into normal society and a job, most addicts have a criminal record, and this makes finding employment difficult.
- There’s always the chance of a relapse, and preventing this needs to be managed with the help of the employer. Most addicts use drugs because they find it difficult to deal with stress, emotional upheaval and the pressure of life in general, and they need a great deal of support in every way.
Addiction takes many forms:
- Not all addicts stand at a traffic light begging for money to buy their next fix.
- Addiction is defined as any condition in which a person is ‘addicted to a particular substance or activity’.
- This definition covers more than just illegal substances such as drugs. It refers to other, seemingly less dangerous addictions including coffee, sex, or even exercise, that could become an obsession.
Addiction does not mean you are homeless, have fallen into a life of crime or are generally seen as a failure. There are many fully-functional addicts that have successful lives. A few of them are even able to use some illegal drugs within limits and continue to function in society. But it’s rare for anyone using drugs to escape eventual dependence.