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Durban - Drug lords are working on designer drugs and holiday “specials” aimed at the thousands of school leavers who attend matric rage parties.

So warn NGOs, who say criminals want to lure youngsters into drug abuse and addiction.

This follows the arrest last weekend of a man with R180 000 worth of hydroponic cannabis outside a fast-food takeaway in Pinetown. Hydroponic marijuana has been described as “dagga with a kick”.

This week, Sam Pillay from the Anti-Drug Forum in Chatsworth said hydroponic cannabis was far more expensive than normal dagga.

Highlighting concern over possible abuse of high-end drugs at end-of-year events, including matric rage parties, Pillay said: “There is a market out there and this drug caters for the upper end of dagga smokers. Young affluent people tend to use dagga and ecstasy.

“We have found that learners often try drugs and alcohol for the first time on this occasion (matric rage parties). Mixing some drugs and alcohol can have a devastating and even fatal effect.”

He added that drug dealers stocked up before the year-end holidays and would offer “Christmas specials”.

“For example, sugars (a heroin-based drug) will go on sale for R10, when it is normally R20, and dealers are still making a profit. These prices encourage people, who are in a festive spirit, to consume more,” he said.

Sanca Durban’s acting director, Walter Petersen, said hydroponic cannabis was a cultured plant, making it possible for growers to add chemicals to the end-product during the growing phase.

“Modification of drugs is on the increase and has become a problem. When young people have drunk a lot, they are more vulnerable to drug-taking. Binge drinking is on the increase and downing shooters is a dare. Peer pressure plays a huge role. Whoonga used to be regarded as a township’ drug, but it is entering the more affluent domains,” said Petersen.

He advised parents to have open talks with their teens before they went to a matric rage party.

“Always be willing to pick them up or drop them off at any time.

“Educate your children, speak openly about the danger of drugs and succumbing to peer pressure,” said Petersen.

Durban-based private investigator Rick Crouch said designer marijuana was “easily produced in any house in any neighbourhood”.”The way to detect the growers is to monitor the electricity usage, because it requires a lot of lights,” he said.

KZN SAPS media spokeswoman Captain Nqobile Gwala said there had been several arrests this year in connection with hydroponic marijuana.

Meanwhile, Cara Reilly of Umhlanga Urban Improvement Precinct (UIP) said that managing the matric rage parties involved a number of organisations.

“Extra event staff are brought in to supplement the UIP complement. In terms of drug and alcohol abuse, the UIP keeps a close eye on behaviour in public areas and will enforce the law,” said Reilly.

Ballito UIP’s Dieter Fittkau said planning for the matric rage parties was at an advanced stage.

“We will be working closely with the SAPS and security companies,” said Fittkau.