23 November 2010
The latest craze to hit junkies in South Africa is a mixture of AIDS drugs with marijuana, or ‘whoonga’ as it is called – which some users say isn’t even too potent. It is causing a distinct shortage of medicines for the AIDS stricken.
Whoonga smokers may be fooling themselves into believing the AIDS drugs are giving them a high, when it’s really some other ingredient, said Njabulo Mabaso, an AIDS expert.
Some drug dealers are suspected of stretching the whoonga mixture with soap powder and even rat poison to increase their profits.
The trend, which appeared several years ago in the eastern KwaZulu–Natal province, could spread and seriously harm the country’s war on Aids.
"We are seeing the use of whoonga in communities and its very widespread. It’s a substance that is openly spoken about in communities," the Daily Mail quoted Lihle Dlamini of the Treatment Action Campaign, as saying.
Thamsanqa Langa of Durban said he didn’t know what whoonga was when dealers first started offering the cream–coloured powder at about three dollars a smoke.
But after a few days he started having powerful headaches, stomach pains and night sweats. When he went back to dealers, "They said, ‘You need to smoke more, keep on smoking’," recalled Langa.
One component of the AIDS cocktail gives some patients hallucinations but there is no evidence it has that effect on addicts, said Dr Njabulo Mabaso, who helps run a Durban clinic supported by the US–based AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
He believes whoonga smokers may be fooling themselves into believing the AIDS drugs are giving them a high, when it’s actually another ingredient. It's also thought some drug dealers stretch their whoonga, a creamcoloured powder, with detergent and even rat poison to boost their profits, reports metro.co.uk.
Vincent Ndunge, a police spokesman in KwaZulu–Natal, said whoonga was first noticed two or three years ago when officers found gangs were robbing people of medication as they left hospitals. Initially users crushed the pills and smoked them straight, but added other substances later, said Ndunge.