South Africa's Tik Addiction

South Africa has a growing and internationally renowned drugs problem. Of all the available drugs the one carrying the most concern is Meth-Amphetamine, also known as Crystal Meth or more locally as “Tik”.

A highly addictive and debilitating drug Tik can cause very quickly the breakdown of a person’s life. The impacts of Tik are great with addicts being prone to violence, mood swing and the inability to sleep for days on end.

There is also evidence that suggests a strong tie between drugs and criminal activity in the country, a 2002 study in three major cities found that over a two year period of those arrested for serious crimes including murder, aggravated assault and rape 46% tested positive for an illegal substance. Although conclusions cannot be drawn from these findings we can see that there is at least some relationship. In addition by the police’s statistics over half of all crimes in the Western Cape are said to be related to drug or alcohol abuse, in an area swarming with gang culture this drug abuse is however likely to be a result as much as a cause.

What cannot be denied is the growing market for Tik. It is seen as taking over from old favourites such as Mandrax, a drug heavily used pre 1994. A study in the Western Cape found that Tik had become the drug of choice for almost half the patients seeking drug rehabilitation in the region.

Although present throughout the Rainbow Nation, Tik is particularly prevalent amongst the gang and youth culture of the Western Cape an area of great deprivation and systemic failings dating back to the Apartheid era. Sales of the drug have ballooned in recent years; the breeding ground was created by the forcible removal of “coloureds” into the Western Cape and Cape Flats during Apartheid. Not only were terrible social conditions created where poor education, lack of job opportunities and institutionalised racism led to many feeling worthless and turning to gang culture there was also the “dop” system through which some wages for low level workers were paid in alcohol, embedding addiction and substance abuse within society. The social chaos seen in parts of South Africa today are the natural conclusion of these policies mixed with the introduction of a very cheap, addictive and all-consuming drug such as Crystal Meth.

The Health implications, relating to HIV are very serious. Those who take the drug experience raised libido and lowered inhibitions, meaning a number of sexual partners including sex workers and far higher chances of contracting the virus. This is especially significant in a country considered to have one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDs in the world, meaning great potential for this to rise.

The issue seems almost unassailable, from a government perspective there are crushing social, economic and health issues to contend with. As whole neighbourhoods in the major cities and Cape Flats succumb to the drug there is little hope of a successful social response in combating it. The economic situation in the more deprived communities will only fuel reliance on Tik. In essence Tik can be seen as both a consequence of and inhibitor to development.