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In January this year, a short video of a group of heroin users “bluetoothing” went viral. It was a shock to online viewers and left many rehabilitation centres in South Africa concerned about possible health risks.
Photo credit: Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism
Since the 1980's, heroin addiction has slowly infected South African drug culture like a gangrenous wound. This highly addictive drug is normally injected or smoked and users can become severely addicted after trying the drug just once.
Since the turn of the century, there has been a new wave of heavily adulterated street heroin commonly known as Nyaope or Whoonga. Until recently, it was commonly believed that antiretroviral drugs were a key ingredient in the synthesis of nyaope. Today we now know, thanks to multiple chemical analysis of street nyaope, that nyaope is most commonly a combination of methamphetamine or TIK and opiates such as heroin. This is mixed with marijuana to be smoked.
In 2015, the World Health Organisation identified South Africa to be one of the drug using capitals of the world and found that a massive 15 percent of South Africans had a substance addiction.
More recently, in February of 2017, South African people and media were shocked by a wave of reports showing injected drug users practising a new drug fad called bluetoothing. In these videos and reports, drug users are shown injecting nyaope, and then immediately drawing blood back into the syringe to be injected into a fellow user.
Connie van Staden is the regional head of advocacy and human rights at Pretoria nonprofit organisation StepUP. In news statements made by Connie early in 2017, he claims that journalists may have initially misreported a picture of one of StepUP's clients. The message that Connie and other experts are trying to get out there is that bluetoothing is not widely practised and that it does not work.
Bluetoothing has severe health risks and is highly likely to lead to HIV, syphilis or hepatitis B and C infections among users.
The way in which the media had misled the public to believe that bluetoothing was common practice had inadvertently started to cause a fad that had never truly existed. Gullible drug users have started risking their lives for a fake high.
Wim Fourie, a Youth Against Drug Abuse (YADA) chairperson, has stated harm reduction as the best strategy against the bluetoothing fad. He has identified harm reduction as educating people and spreading a culture of safe injection practice as well as providing safe and clean injection paraphernalia to drug addicts.
The next step towards harm reduction is rehabilitation and opioid substitution therapy. Opioid substitution therapy or opioid maintenance therapy is the replacement of one opioid such as heroin with another opioid such as methadone which is medically controlled.
At Step Away Rehabilitation Centre in Port Elizabeth, we have all the facilities and expertise to take care of recovering opioid and injected drug users.
For more information about our rehabilitation centre or how you can help your loved one overcome their addiction, please contact us.
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