Street drugs that your child may encounter

Street drugs that your child may encounter

Street drugs that your child may encounter

It’s scary to think that today most school children have easy access to any number of illegal drugs. Dealers are also targeting young children with things like chocolate bars and other sweets filled with drugs.

There’s an explosion of street drugs that do not look or taste like drugs at all. Drug dealers take dangerous drugs like marijuana, ecstasy, ketamine, PCP and crack (cocaine) and mask them by hiding them in something that does not seem dangerous. They look like candy, snack foods or soda, but there’s nothing sweet about them. They’re drugs!

Parents should take note of what their children may encounter on the streets, so that they can warn them about the dangers. Parents should also be aware that while the intoxicating effects of any drug are an incidental and instantaneous occurrence, dependence varies considerably in the length of time it takes to develop. Therefore signs and symptoms vary from person to person.

The following are the most common street drugs.

Dagga (cannabis)

There are probably more misconceptions and myths about dagga than any other drug. It is most often smoked but it can also be cooked and eaten in biscuits. Dagga is stored in the fat tissues of the body, meaning that it enters rapidly, but leaves slowly. The use of dagga has many health risks and on the long term it leads to amotivational syndrome which diminishes psychic inspiration to participate in normal social situations and activities, with lapses in apathy caused by an external event, situation, substance, relationship, or other cause.

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide/acid)

The effects of LSD are unpredictable depending on the amount taken, the surroundings in which the drug is used, and the user’s personality mood and expectations. The streetnames are A, acid, microdots, candy or trips. It is sold on blotter paper with cartoon characters and other pictures, in gelatine squares, on sugar cubes or tablets that are sucked or eaten. Health risks include impaired memory, over stimulation of the nerve system, anxiety, tension, panic attacks and permanent flashbacks due to irreversible brain damage.


Ketamine is a fast-acting, dissociative anaesthetic, used primarily in veterinarian settings. It is a liquid but can be made into powder/tablets by evaporating the liquid through heating. It can be injected, sniffed or smoked and is often mixed with other drugs. It is also known as a “club drug”. Health risks include increased heart rate and high blood pressure, depression, potentially fatal respiratory problems, coma and death.


PCP (phencyclidine) is classified as a hallucinogen and has many of the same effects as LSD, but can be much more dangerous. In the 1950s, PCP was investigated as an anaesthetic, but due to its severe side-effects its development for human use was discontinued. PCP is known for inducing violent behaviour and for inducing negative physical reactions such as seizures, coma and death. There is no way to predict who will have a bad reaction to the drug. Maybe this is because PCP has so many faces; it acts as a hallucinogen, stimulant, depressant and anaesthetic − all at the same time. In its original state, PCP is a white crystalline powder. PCP is available in tablet, liquid and powder forms and is either ingested orally or smoked by applying the liquid form to tobacco or marijuana cigarettes or by lacing these and other cigarettes, sometimes containing herbs such as mint or parsley, with PCP powder.

Cocaine/crack cocaine

Cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. It is the most psychologically dependence producing substance known although not classified as physically dependence-producing. Withdrawal symptoms do not really occur but the rebound depression, lethargy, etc can be intolerable. Cocaine is a powder that can be smoked, sniffed up the nose or injected. Crack cocaine is a heated, crystallised form of cocaine and is therefore purer and more concentrated. Crack is smoked and is known as free-basing. Cocaine and crack alter and damage specialised cells that regulate wellbeing and mood. Health risks include disrupted chemical balance of the brain, resulting in Parkinsonian-like symptoms. It increases heart rate and blood pressure and can lead to arrhythmias and cardiac arrest. Needle users run the risk of hepatitis and HIV/Aids.


Tik (crystal meth) is one of the latest buzzwords in drug circles and is becoming increasingly popular among school children. On the street, crystal meth has many names, including tuk-tuk, tik, crystal, straws and globes. The drug has recently sparked a huge response from health authorities. Far more is being done to clamp down on dealing tik than on any other drug in South Africa. Tik or methamphetamine, part of the amphetamine group of drugs and potent and easy to make, was first discovered in Japan in 1919. It’s still legally produced in the United States in the guise of medication prescribed for weight loss, as a nasal inhalant and even for narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. The powder or crystal is placed in a light bulb after its metal threading has been removed. A lighter is used to heat the bulb and the user smokes the fumes. Some users call the drug tuk-tuk because of the clicking sound it makes when smoked. The ingredients are easily accessible and many manufacturers need nothing more than their kitchens to concoct large quantities. Recipes are plentiful and easily available, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to follow them. Chronic abuse can lead to out-of-control rages, violence, anxiety, confusion, mood disturbances and insomnia. Users can become psychotic, experiencing symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations and flight of ideas (jumping from one topic to the next). The paranoia can result in homicide or suicide. The drug causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, and can result in irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, causing strokes. Other effects include respiratory problems and irregular heartbeat.

Methcathinone (khat/cat)

In its pure form, the effects of this drug are similar to cocaine, although it is sufficiently less intense and easier to come down from it. The streetnames are cat, ephedrone, jeff, mulka, poor man’s coke. It originated from North and East Africa where the leaves of cathinone, which contain ephedrine compounds, are chewed. In its pure form, the leaves can be ground and smoked. A synthetic form of cathinone, called cat, is now being illegally produced and often cut with a wide range of lethal substances including sulphuric acid, drain cleaner, paint thinners, acetone and pool cleaner to increase bulk and profit. Users develop a sense of euphoria and increased alertness. Cat users tend to binge and do not eat or sleep until they pass out. The long-term effects are delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety and depression, tremors and convulsions, and eating disorders.


Amphetemines include dexedrine, benzedrine, methedrine, ritalin and appetite suppressants, which are orally and intravenously administered. The streetnames include ice (crystal meth), tik (see above), speed, fast, up, whiz and crystal. Methamphetamine is a white, crystalline powder, highly toxic to the central nervous centre. It is usually smoked or sniffed. Most common health risks are headaches, urinary retention, increased heart rate and high blood pressure which can lead to arrhythmias and cardiac arrest. Users show severe weight loss, skin problems and uncontrollable rage/violent behaviour and depression. HIV/Aids and hepatitis are also real dangers to users sharing needles and other injection equipment.


Benzodiazepine is usually prescribed to persons suffering from stress and anxiety disorders, but they have become part of the recreational drug use scene. The streetnames for this drug include benzos, temazies, jellies, moggies, eggs, vallies, norries, green eggs, rugby balls. Benzodiazepine is mostly used to relax or to counter the negative effects of other drugs such as ecstasy and heroin. The short-term effects are similar to those of alcohol but the long-term effects include memory loss, depression and sexual dysfunction. The date-rape drug rohypnol (also known as rosshies) also falls under this category.


Ecstasy is a prominent street “club drug” and is also known as molly, STP, love drug, mellow, XTC, Adam and Eve, superman, domes, e pills, doves, disco biscuits, Bruce Lee’s, echoes, hug drug, burgers, smarties, magic beans, mitsubishis, rolexes, dolphins, snow ball, callies, eccies, little fellas, dids and yokes. It is a form of methamphetamine and as a synthetic drug it can produce both stimulant and hallucinatory effects. It’s usually white in colour, but comes in tablets or capsules of different shapes and sizes. Some have pictures or logos stamped on them. The drug is taken orally and the effects last three to six hours, though depression, insomnia and anxiety can last for weeks or even months. There are many health risks linked to ecstasy. These include insomnia, seizures, headaches, paranoia, panic attacks, arrhythmias, increased heart rate, blood pressure, severe depression, strokes and severe memory loss as well as skin rashes linked to liver damage.


Heroin is an illegal and highly addictive drug. The streetnames are H, smack, horse, junk, hairy, Harry and thai white. It is both the most abused and the most rapidly acting of the opiates. Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of certain varieties of poppy plants. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as the black sticky substance known on the streets as black tar heroin. Although purer heroin is becoming more common, most street heroin is cut with other drugs or with substances such as sugar, starch, powdered milk or quinine. Street heroin also can be cut with strychnine or other poisons. Because heroin abusers do not know the actual strength of the drug or its true contents, they are at risk of overdose or death. Heroin also poses special problems because of the transmission of HIV and other diseases that can occur from sharing needles or other injection equipment.


Mandrax tablets typically consist of a mixture of methaqualone (the active ingredient) and antihistamine. The streetnames for mandrax include white pipe, buttons, MX, gholfsticks, doodies, lizards, press outs and flowers. Methaqualone is a synthetic sedative-hypnotic substance that acts as a central nervous system depressant. In South Africa the tablets are crushed and mixed with dagga and smoked in a combination called white pipe. Abusive using of mandrax is more common in South Africa than anywhere else in the world. Health risks include peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage to peripheral regions of the body), depression of the central nervous system, seizures, slower judgement and heart failure.


Marijuana is a green, brown, or grey mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the hemp plant. Marijuana is called by street names such as zol, skyf, joint, weed, grass, pot, boom, ganja, hash, dope, herb, Mary Jane, gangster or chronic. There are more than 200 slang terms for marijuana. Most users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette (called a joint or a nail) or smoke it in a pipe or water pipe, sometimes referred to as a bong. Some users mix marijuana into foods or use it to brew a tea. Another method is to slice open a cigar and replace the tobacco with marijuana, making what’s called a blunt. Marijuana cigarettes or blunts sometimes contain other substances as well as crack cocaine. Findings so far show that regular use of marijuana may play a role in some kinds of cancer and in problems with the respiratory and immune systems.


This drug has become known on the local streets since 2000. The streetnames are whoonga and wunga. Contrary to popular belief, the drug does not contain antiretroviral drugs. Although it is unknown exactly what nyaope contains, the most common substances include heroin, cannabis and meth. Rat poison, milk powder, bicarbonate of soda and even pool cleaner have been found in nyaope. The effects of the drug don’ t last long, with users reporting a sense of euphoria and complete relaxation, but the long-term effects include insomnia, scarred or collapsed veins, liver and kidney disease, lung complications and mental and psychotic breaks.


The opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, is the type of poppy from which opium and many refined opiates such as morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine and noscapine are extracted. The binomial name means, loosely translated, the “sleep-bringing poppy”, referring to its narcotic effect. It contains up to 16% morphine, an opiate alkaloid, which is most frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the black market. The resin also includes non-narcotic alkaloids, such as papaverine and noscapine. Opium is also known as afeem, and was called “God’s Own Medicine” during its time of greatest popularity.


This type of drug is also known as vapours, sprays, glue or sniffers. The fumes of strong, toxic chemicals such as cooking spray, glue, petrol, spray paint and shoe polish are inhaled, causing a strong and immediate sense of intoxication. Solvent abuse is considered the most affordable and easily accessible substance, with glue sniffing the most common form. The effects are short-lived, leading users to repeatedly inhale. The long-term effects include a permanent rash around the mouth and nose, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, depression and irritability, serious damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and brain, hearing loss and bone marrow damage.


Drug awareness. Retrieved from
Hitting the streets – SA’ s top drugs. Retrieved from

(Revised by M van Deventer)