Kids 'as young as 10 getting hooked on tik'

Published Jan 9, 2008

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By Caryn Dolley

Children as young as 10 years are "getting hooked" on drugs but have a slim chance of rehabilitation and the "epidemic is spreading fast", say community leaders in farming areas which in the past few months have become saturated with drug dens.

In August, leaders warned that dealers were moving to rural areas and the abuse of crystal methamphetamine, or tik, was increasing.

On Tuesday, Brenda Pienaar, chief executive officer of the SA National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in George, said though no official statistics were available yet, the tik problem had worsened.

"At the office here we're seeing more and more young addicts coming in. They arrive here in a very bad state, far into their addiction.

"People think George is a small place where nothing really happens, but the area is saturated with tik dealers and more dens are popping up. It's really bad," she said. In one area alone there were 23 suspected tik dens.

Pienaar said her organisation had visited a high school late last year. The school has 35 classes of up to 40 pupils each and "a shocking" 60 percent of pupils said they were either using or had used tik. This meant 840 of about 1 400 pupils had used the drug.

Zackary Johnston, a member of the Theewaterskloof Emerging Farmers Association (Caledon area), said hundreds of children were using tik. The problem became "so bad" during December that, on most nights, his car's light bulbs were stolen to be used for smoking the drug.

"A lot of other people have complained about the same happening to them but are scared to go to the police."

Johnston said tik users were as young as 10 years old and, because children were on holiday, he believed more were "getting hooked".

"There are more drug dens and more young addicts but residents don't have the money for rehabilitation."

In Rawsonville, a community leader, Aubrey Wher, said tik was "freely available" and during the festive season farmers had complained of workers using the drug.

"We need outside help to stop this drug epidemic which is spreading fast," he said.

Meanwhile in De Doorns, John Levendal, co-ordinator of Farm Watch, said the community had had a "good festive season" and had curbed tik use but was now battling alcohol abuse and glue sniffing.

Levendal said last month he noticed a decrease in the number of children using tik. He believed this was because of a "youth upliftment" project the community started in November.

"We go around to the farms and have motivational talks with children and get them involved in sports."

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