- Last Updated on Monday, 27 July 2015 16:49
Tik addiction has become a major problem in South Africa. This highly addictive drug is marketed as a cheap and easy way of losing weight or keeping awake during exam times. Unfortunately, it is attracting extremely young (six years and up) first-time and other non-typical users − with devastating effects!
What is tik?
Tik is one of the street names for crystal meth, which belongs to a group of drugs known as methamphetamines. Methamphetamines have been used in the medical treatment of behavioural and sleep disorders. Narcotic methamphetamines (known as meth), however, are made in illegal meth labs and are very toxic. They are sometimes mixed with other cheap drugs and poisons to increase the effect and bulk of the product.
Who uses tik?
Tik has become a well-known drug on the South African drug scene and is growing as the drug of choice among teenagers. It is being marketed as an easy way of losing weight or keeping awake and is therefore attractive to young girls and other non-typical users. Tik can be smoked, sniffed, eaten or injected, although smoking is more popular in South Africa.
Venetia Orgill, one of the founder members of the original Tik Task Force set up in 2003, reports that there are a quarter million or more people on tik in the Western Cape alone. This includes husbands, wives, children and even teachers.
Effect of tik on users
Tik is a highly addictive chemical substance which affects several areas of the nervous system. Continued use of tik may lead to weight loss, insomnia, severe skin problems, teeth loss, seizures, psychotic and violent behaviour and uncontrollable outbursts of rage. An overdose is characterised by dehydration, hyperthermia, convulsions, kidney failure, stroke and heart attacks.
Tik very quickly destroys the lives of its users and causes havoc in families and communities. In fact, family members are cautioned to be careful about confronting addicts or forcing them to give up the drug as they can become extremely aggressive and violent.
Effect of tik on our society
Public health issues
Short-term exposure to high concentrations of chemical fumes that may exist in meth labs can cause severe health problems and even result in death. Exposure to these substances can occur from air emissions, spills, fires and explosions. Meth cooks, their families and first responders to the crisis are at highest risk of acute health effects from chemical exposure.
Because the drug lowers inhibitions and heightens the libido of the user, it poses other serious health threats to society. The drug has been linked to an increase in risky sexual behaviour and, according to a study by the South African Medical Research Council (MRC), the incidence of HIV is increasing among tik addicts and those associating with them. Other health risks include the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis B and C infection and TB.
The use of tik triggers an ecstasy that is highly pleasurable and gives the user a burst of energy, confidence and excitement, thereby removing inhibitions. Addicts may become aggressive and numerous cases of violent and criminal incidents related to tik addiction have been reported. Tik is becoming a sought-after drug with gang members.
Financial burden of rehabilitation
Tik is attracting extremely young first-time users and treatment centres are reportedly treating children as young as six years of age. According to a 2013 report, one in five children in the Cape was addicted to tik. Rehabilitation of tik users is difficult and costly and requires the assistance of professionals.
Owen, D. 2012. South Africa’s tik addiction. Retrieved from: http://www.talkingdrugs.org
Serra, G. & Salvester, W. 2013. One in five Cape children on tik. Retrieved from: http://www.iol.co.za
The hidden risks of taking tik. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.health24.com
(Revised by M van Os)