Let’s talk about addiction

Popular media often refer to “soft” drugs (alcohol, dagga) and “hard” drugs (heroin, cocaine, etc.) This is very misleading, since all drugs are mind altering, mood swinging and behaviour changing substances with extremely negative consequences, sometimes permanent.


Drug Type: depressant

Method of use: orally

Effects: The amount taken will determine the effect. Quite a number of people will use it as a stimulant for example, to stimulate their appetite. However, in general, alcohol will slow down vital functions resulting in slurred speech, unsteady movement, disturbed perception, impaired motor skills, violent behaviour, foetal alcohol syndrome, respiratory depression and death (in high doses).

Facts: Once intoxicated, an individual often falls prey to being introduced to other drugs due to the lack of ability to remain in control of themselves or their environment. Teenagers should be aware of their surroundings and take control of their soft drinks in order to minimise the possibility of them being spiked. The possibility of engaging in unsafe sex whilst intoxicated can lead to HIV/Aids.

Withdrawal symptoms:

  • excessive sweating, tremors
    • fast heartbeat
    • redness in the face
    • lack of appetite and/or inability to eat
    • vomiting
    • insomnia
    • headaches
    • convulsions
    • seizures
    • DTs/hallucinations

Some signs of dependency:

  • Inability to control alcohol intake
    • Lose control once you start drinking/inability to stop
    • Sneak drinking; deny that you drink, the amount, the time of day or that it is harmful to you or your family
    • “Regmakers,” early morning drinking in order to steady the nerves
    • Change of brand that you drink
    • Change of circle of friends whilst drinking
    • Inability to become and remain employed
    • Family problems as a result of your alcohol consumption
    • Changing of tolerance levels.

Dagga (marijuana)

Drug Type: hallucinogen

Method of use: smoking

Street names: astro turf; dope; ganja, grass, boom, spliff, home grown, J, Mary Jane, pot, reefer, roach and weed. “Cannabis” describes several of the drugs that come from the Indian hemp plant, including marijuana and hashish.

Effects: A hallucinogen can distort how the mind perceives the world you live in. The chemical in cannabis that creates this distortion is known as “THC”.

Facts: Users will always defend dagga as a soft drug with no radical consequences; however, one joint contains approximately five times the amount of cancer producing chemicals.

According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, animals given marijuana by researchers suffered structural damage to the brain. A number of studies have also showed a significant connection between continued dagga use and psychosis. Dagga is a so-called “gateway” drug, which means that the possibility of progress to other illegal drugs is great.

In South Africa dagga is often mixed with Mandrax, originally a sleeping tablet, as a way of increasing its effects.

Some signs and symptoms of use:

  • bloodshot eyes
    • dry mouth
    • impaired or reduced comprehension
    • altered sense of time
    • reduced ability to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination – such as driving a car
    • paranoia
    • intense anxiety attacks
    • altered cognition
    • impairments of learning, memory, perception and judgement,
    • difficulty speaking, listening effectively, thinking, retaining knowledge, problem solving
    • An increased appetite in the beginning (munchies)

Withdrawal symptoms:

  • Insomnia
    • Hyperactivity and a decreased appetite are occasionally reported.

Opiates (heroin, amphetomines, methamphetomines)

Drug Type: heroin, morphine, codene

Method of use: injecting, sniffing, smoking and injesting. Obviously addicts injecting are facing the additional risk of contracting HIV/Aids through dirty and shared needles.

Street names: Big H; H; junk; skag; horse; smack; spike; sugars; hell dust, mud, brown, black tar, dope etc.


  • Addiction
    • slurred speech
    • slow gait
    • constricted pupils
    • droopy eyelids
    • impaired night vision
    • nodding off
    • respiratory depression or failure
    • dry itching skin and skin infections
    • Increased risk of exposure to HIV, hepatitis and other infectious diseases if injected.

Facts:  Heroine is a highly addictive, illegal substance and one of the most difficult addictions to combat. Heroin is made from the resin of the poppy plant similar to opium and morphine.

Withdrawal symptoms: Similar to a “flu-like” illness; abdominal cramps, anxiety, craving, irritability, fatigue, hot and cold flushes, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, diarrhoea, increased blood pressure, increased pulse, dilated pupils etc.

Nyaope (heroin and dagga)

Drug type: opiate

Method of use: smoked in a pipe or as a cigarette


  • addiction
    • slurred speech
    • slow gait
    • constricted pupils
    • droopy eyelids
    • impaired night vision
    • nodding off
    • respiratory depression or failure
    • dry itching skin and skin infections

Facts: Nyope is a mixture of Dagga and Heroin, and in some cases Rat Poison.

Withdrawal symptoms: Similar to a “flu-like” illness; abdominal cramps, anxiety, craving, irritability, fatigue, hot and cold flushes, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, diarrhoea, increased blood pressure, increased pulse, dilated pupils etc.


Drug Type: stimulant

Method of use: It can be indigested, rubbed on the gums, smoked, snorted or injected.

Street names: Coke, Big C; Charlie; dust; flake; sneeze; white; snow; nose candy; blow; lady etc.

Effects: Cocaine creates a feeling of euphoria but addicts develop a tolerance quickly. It creates a strong psychological dependence due to the stimulation of pleasure centres in the brain. Higher dosages will be necessary to achieve the same effect. Cocaine use can lead to death from respiratory failure, stroke, bleeding on the brain, heart attacks, seizures, insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and increased body temperature.

Facts: Cocaine is extracted from coca leaves and was originally developed as a pain killer. When cocaine is mixed with heroine, it is called a speed ball. Cocaine addiction very often goes hand-in-hand with sex addiction. An addict will relapse sexually first, before relapsing on cocaine. Cocaine is often used with other drugs such as tranquilisers, dagga, and amphetamines which can be fatal.

Signs of dependency:

  • Redness, but pale face
    • Involuntary twitching
    • Unnatural excitement
    • Rapid pulse
    • Rash
    • Over-confidant behaviour

Withdrawal symptoms:

  • Deep depression
    • Drowsiness
    • Lethargy
    • Suicidal feelings
    • Nausea and/or vomiting
    • Shaking fits
    • Fatigue
    • Weakness
    • Hunger
    • Long but disturbed sleep
    • Irritability
    • Fuzzy thinking
    • Muscle pain
    • Craving for the drug


Drug Type: stimulant

Method of use: smoked

Street names: rocks, wash, stone, Roxanne, cloud, flake, nuggets, nine

Effects: Crack causes an intense high and elation and great surge of energy. An incredible sense of well-being and power.

Facts: This is the crystallised and a cheaper form of cocaine and is heated and smoked. It is highly addictive due the fact that the feeling of euphoria lasts approximately 15 minutes. This leads to compulsive repetitive use soon after using the drug for the first time. Tolerance to the drug develops quickly.

Withdrawal symptoms: The high is almost immediately followed by intense depression, agitation, paranoia and a craving for further use. As well as feelings of weakness and tiredness. The comedown can last for days at a time therefore addicts usually have to take larger and larger amounts of crack to get near the original hit.


Drug Type: stimulant

Method of use: It is usually taken orally, injected, snorted or smoked.

Street names: speed, uppers, ups, hearts, black beauties, pep pills, capilots, bumble bees, Benzedrine, Dexedrine, footballs, biphetamine etc.


  • Addiction
    • Irritability
    • Anxiety
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Paranoia
    • Psychosis
    • Depression
    • Aggression
    • Convulsions
    • Dilated pupils
    • Dizziness
    • Sleeplessness
    • Loss of appetite
    • Malnutrition

Facts: Chronic use can induce psychosis with similar symptoms to schizophrenia.

Signs of drug use:

  • Not taking care of hygiene and grooming
    • Not sleeping or sleeping too much
    • Loss of appetite
    • Weight loss or gain
    • Too hyper active or too little energy
    • Excitable, tremors, insomnia, sweating, dry mouth and lips, bad breath, dilated pupils, weight loss, paranoia and hallucinations.


Drug Type: stimulant

Methods of use: orally, injected, snorted or smoked.

Street names: speed, meth, crank. Crystal, ice, fire, croak, crypto, white cross, glass, ‘Ice’ is the street name for the smokeable form.


  • Addiction
    • Irritability
    • Aggression
    • Hypothermia
    • Stroke
    • Paranoia
    • Psychosis
    • Convulsions
    • Heart and blood vessel toxicity
    • Hallucinations
    • Arrhythmia
    • Formication (the sensations of insects crawling under your skin)

Facts: Some users can go without sleep for 3 – 15 days, they call this period “tweaking”. Meth doesn’t make you grow up – it makes you grow old. Users suffer physical damage from the ravages of methamphetamine. Skin, teeth, hygiene, eating, sleeping are all neglected for the high that meth temporarily brings. Users smell like chemicals, some like cat urine.

Relationship between Meths and HIV: This relationship could be deadly. The risky sexual behaviour that meth users engage in increase the transmission of diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and Hepatitis C.

The spread of HIV amongst meth users is a very real problem due to the shared contaminated paraphernalia and increased sexual activity. For those already HIV positive, engaging in methamphetamine may speed up the progress to full-blown Aids.

Tik (Crystal Methamphetamine)

Drug Type: stimulant

Method of use: smoking, snorting or injecting and some take it orally.

Effects: False sense of happiness and well-being, confidence, a lot of energy almost hyperactive. Effect can last from 6 to 24 hours.

Long-term effects: Serious health conditions including memory loss, aggression, psychotic behaviour and potential heart and brain damage. It is highly addictive and someone can be hooked after the first use.

Facts: Some illegal laboratories exploded whilst manufacturing this drug. They produce a lot of toxic waste in the manufacturing process. People exposed to the waste can become poisoned and die. Battery acid, drain cleaner, rat poison, lantern fuel, antifreeze are often used to make TIK.


Drug Type: stimulants

Method of use: orally

Street names: XTC, Adam, MDMA


  • Psychiatric disturbances including panic, anxiety, depression and paranoia.
    • Muscle tension
    • Nausea
    • Blurred vision
    • Sweating
    • Increased heart rate
    • Tremors
    • Hallucinations
    • Fainting, chills
    • Sleep problems
    • Reduced appetite

Facts: Ecstasy is popular at all-night underground parties / raves and is the most common designer drug. Ecstasy is often a mixed variety of drugs and other substances, sometimes even rat poison. Quite a number of young people have died because the body’s natural alarm systems are shut down, e.g. over heating, dehydration, exhaustion etc. It can cause brain damage, kidney and liver failure. It can cause irreparable damage to the nervous system. Up to 92% of Ecstasy users will make use of other drugs to “come down” due to the physical and mental pain associated with it. This increases the risk of multiple drug use on a regular basis.


Drug Type: depressants

Street names: Benzos, Bennies, downers, nerve pills, tranks, roofies etc

Method of use: orally, injected

Effects: They operate widely in the brain, affecting emotional reactions, memory, thinking, control of consciousness, muscle tone and co-ordination. They supress anxiety and stress and are often used as a sleeping aid for insomnia.

Signs of dependency:

  • Somebody has been taking the medication for more than 4 months
    • They rely on the medication to cope
    • When trying to cut down you experience unusual symptoms, illness or anxiousness.
    • The medication loses its effect and the dose needs to increase to obtain the same results
    • You need additional medication during stressful times
    • Increased alcohol intake
    • Interference in other levels of functioning (spiritual, physical, psychological, mental etc)
    • You make sure you never run out of medication
    • You always have medication on you, “just in case”

Withdrawal symptoms:

  • Shaking
    • Severe anxiety
    • Panic
    • Severe headaches
    • Insomnia
    • Restlessness
    • Mood swings and depression
    • Irritability
    • Extreme lethargy
    • Seizures