The Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are the main abusers of illegal substances. This is according to South Africa’s Central Drug Authority (CDA), in a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on November 19 2014. The report also shows that people start experimenting with drugs very young (at 12), and that there’s a strong link between drug abuse and crime.
Xolani’s marijuana troubles
Twenty-six-year-old Xolani Sikhosana (not his real name) from Vryheid, KZN proves the statistics true. He started using marijuana in high school, and his continued abuse of the drug has stunted his life and landed him in prison. In 2011, after an altercation with his elder brother, where Xolani threatened him with violence while holding a knobkerrie, he was arrested. He was reportedly high on weed during the incident. According to the CDA, a whopping 60% of crimes in South Africa are attributed to drug-related activity. Xolani was eventually bailed out by his family, but the brother with whom he quarrelled says he cannot believe the two of them are now enemies. “He used to be a very polite guy. We were very close. We were always together and grew up together. We shared everything; a bed, toys, clothes, you name it. But now, we are like a dog and a cat,” he said with teary eyes.
According to the United States’ National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), heavy marijuana users (like Xolani, who, according to his family, locks himself up for hours smoking his sanity away) report more relationship problems than non-users. The mother of Xolani’s two sons left him because he would become abusive both verbally and physically when high. NIDA further states that marijuana is known to cause users – especially those who have been using since adolescence (like Xolani) – to have less academic success compared to non-using peers. Xolani is a university drop out, having dropped out of second-year of his BSc in Physics at the University of Kwazulu Natal in 2011.
Weed and (possibly) other drugs
The friends he used to smoke marijuana with admit that Xolani is not the same. “I feel guilty every time I share some [weed] with him,” says Vusi Dlamini, popularly known as “Sticks”. Though Vusi has been smoking for more than a decade, his life does not seem to have gone off the rails – at least not just by looking at him. He has just built himself a two-roomed house in Mangosuthu township in Vryheid. Vusi says he believes that Xolani’s condition is not just a result of using marijuana alone. “I think he smoked something very strong in varsity – probably nyaope [a popular, cheap drug that comprises heroin, rat poison, antiretrovirals, cocaine and crushed ceramic plates among other substances],” he says.
Sticks could be right, Xolani may have gotten hooked on something stronger than just weed. KZN has, according to the CDA, a high prevalence of heroin abusers. But his family believe marijuana has contributed to his dire condition. After bailing him out, the police recommended that his family seek professional help as he was showing signs of psychosis; personality change, thought disorder and loss of contact with reality. Xolani’s mother says he was better after coming back from the hospital; he was less violent and spoke more sense. But after a few weeks at home, he reverted to his old ways. His mother says it’s because he started smoking heavily again, something he couldn’t do while in the mental institution.
Xolani is currently in a psychiatric hospital. His family is hopeful he’ll come back better and finally get rehabilitated. “It’s like my son is a completely different person now. He had a bright future ahead of him. I was hoping after graduating, he would help me raise his younger siblings as I’m a single parent,” weeps his mother.
Xolani’s case is one of many in South Africa. See the full info-graphic on substance abuse in South Africa here.
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