In 2010 the drug nyaope, also known as whoonga, first became widely popular and available across impoverished areas of South Africa. Ever since, these communities have seen dramatic increases in drug abuse and crime rates. Nyaope’s highly addictive nature has devastated these communities and has effectively prolonged their escapes from poverty.

The drug is cheap — it costs only 30 rand, or about $3, for a hit. The drug contains a dangerous cocktail of chemicals, purportedly including marijuana, heroin, rat poison and antiretrovirals, drugs used to treat HIV.

Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, ominously calls users of the drug “slaves,” and blames the drug for increased crime and domestic violence in the area. Of the numerous case studies illustrating the pernicious effects of nyaope, one poignant study tracks a 17-year old South African named Sipho.

One year after beginning to smoke nyaope, a habit influenced by his friends, Sipho had dropped out of school and begun to act violently in hopes of perpetuating his access to the drug. To finance the addiction he would steal from his already poor neighbors. Sipho is now being treated at Horizon Clinic, one of the many rehabilitation centers working to stifle drug abuse and its effects.

Instead of stealing the funds to finance their drug use, many addicts cut out the middlemen and steal the ingredients. But because nyaope is an assortment of ingredients, many of which are controversial, the actual contents are often disputed. For example, many believe that antiretrovirals are not used at all, or if they are, they have no more than a placebo effect.

According to HarmonyGroup, an online addictions clinic, “Smoking or injecting crushed antiretrovirals won’t make you high. The reputation of the drug could therefore be nothing more than a myth based on distortion by the media and the incorrect data supplied by users who don’t know any better.”

Thus, the risks these addicts are taking to find these supposed ingredients, may in fact be complete wastes of time with potentially colossal consequences.

The crime caused by this drug is prolonging and deepening poverty in South Africa — it raises generations of thieves and addicts while leaving reconstruction to others, often outsiders. If the grasp of poverty is to be weakened, South Africans must first divert their own attention to the widespread, recreational and pernicious drug abuse.

– Adam Kaminski 

Sources: Global Post, Harmony Group
Photo: The Public News Hub