I am 19 and I am a heroin addict. I’ve been through drug programmes four times and have been clean since October.
I’m very together at the moment, so these are not just the ramblings of a doped-up junkie.
Firstly, heroin has been a big problem in Cape Town for a long time. I cannot imagine that people are only starting to notice it now. It has been targeted at people a lot younger than in their twenties. In fact, my friends and I have been doing drugs from about the ages of 12 – 15.
Detox not for the fainthearted
Getting off the stuff is not easy - detox plans in South Africa are revolting. During my first detox in a treatment centre, I was simply locked in a room for three days. After a while, I started having epileptic fits and foaming at the mouth. This happens to many people who are mainliners (those who inject drugs intravenously). The staff held me down on a bed and told me to think happy thoughts. There was no appropriate detoxification medication available.
I was clean for 9 months before I relapsed and overdosed. My sister found me dying and took me to hospital.
Hospital care not very caring
I must say that I don’t think the hospitals have any time for people like us. The next day the doctor came and just looked at me and without saying a word, signed my release forms. I had to spend the night, because my heart had stopped. I was in withdrawal, but that didn’t stop them from simply kicking me out of the hospital.
Is it my own fault that I am this way? Would anyone choose this willingly? Many people don’t seem to understand that we cannot help who we are and that we never asked to be like this. Yes, we do know that we made a choice, the consequences of which we live with every day, but that doesn’t mean we are any less human.
The places in South Africa that are equipped to deal with heroin addiction are few and far between. And some of them are very expensive. So what happens if you’re not a member of a medical scheme? But wherever you go, the sacrifice is worth it. After all, you get your life back.
Chat to others on the Substance Abuse Peer Forum.
(Health24, updated June 2010)