Cape Town - One in five children in the Western Cape are on tik.
The shocking statistic has emerged in a Daily Voice investigation into the use of the deadly drug in the Cape over the past decade.
In the first of a three-part series, we will reveal how the highly addictive drug has destroyed thousands of families since it exploded on the Cape Flats just 10 years ago.
And we will highlight disturbing new figures which reveal the true extent of the use of tik, or crystal meth, in our gang-ravaged communities.
A recent finding by the Medical Research Council claimed that 2 percent of South African children are using the drug.
But experts on the front line of the war against drugs on the Cape Flats rubbished the finding. And they claim 10 times this number of children in the Western Cape are hooked on the drug.
“I wouldn’t agree with those statistics. It is far too low an average to consider,” Ashley Potts, the director of the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre told the Daily Voice.
“In the Western Cape, on average, 20 percent of school-going youth are actively using crystal meth.
“At the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre, 60 percent of our clients are tik users, followed by dagga and heroin.”
Potts said the centre takes in around 100 new clients every month at their two centres in Mitchells Plain and Observatory.
And he warns heroin and dagga use are also on the rise among our young people.
“On the Cape Flats, a cheaper form of heroin is being used called ungah,” he adds.
“Ungah is even more lethal than heroin because it contains more toxins that are more debilitating to the brain.
“The addictive substances in these backyard [concoctions] are far greater than the pure drugs because they cut it with rat poison and other rubbish.”
Various forms of tik appeared on the Cape Flats in the late 1990s.
But tik abuse really exploded in 2003 as the deadly new drug became a household name in some of our poorest communities.
According to official figures, at least 250 000 people in the province are now addicted to the drug.
A shocking 36 percent of these are teenagers
In some cases, users as young as six years old have been identified.
Venetia Orgill was one of the founder members of the original Tik Task Force set up in 2003 and now works with the NGO Discover Your Power.
She – like thousands of Cape mothers – has seen first-hand how the drug can destroy lives.
Her own son Troy committed suicide in 2008 after he became hopelessly addicted to tik.
“Right now there are a quarter million people on tik in the Western Cape,” Venetia told the Daily Voice.
“And this includes husbands, wives, children and even teachers.
“We were the mothers and fathers who first heard about tik in 2003.
“Our children weren’t sleeping, they weren’t eating and they were aggressive – this is when we approached Social Services and started the Tik Task Team.
“In 2004, 12 000 school-going children were using tik, and in 2009, this figure rose to 69 000.”
There has also been an alarming use of drugs in our schools in recent years.
New figures obtained by the Daily Voice reveal Cape schools asked the Western Cape Education Department to expel 107 learners for drug-related offences last year – at least 40 of these were booted out of their schools.
Most of the drug offences were reported in schools in Mitchell’s Plain, Manenberg and Bonteheuwel.
“Twenty-one learners were expelled for offences relating to the dealing and distributing of drugs at school,” said Western Cape Education Department spokeswoman Bronagh Casey.
“Nineteen were expelled for possession of drugs at school or being under the influence of drugs at school.”