Cape Town - For as little as R15 a packet there’s no better deal. You can get high twice, for anything up to eight hours at a time.
With six merchants on the same street, mother of five Charlene Roberts and her cousin Joseph Hendricks, both 35, have no difficulty staying high on tik. Though unemployed, they each spend an average of R150 to R200 a day on the drug.
The South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use has collected data monthly from 36 specialist treatment centres on 2 976 patients between 2011 and 2016.
It said tik remained “the most common primary substance of abuse in the Western Cape and the second most common substance of abuse among patients 20 years and younger in the Eastern Cape”.
Roberts and Hendricks are not part of the research sample but form part of a larger community of addicts not accounted for at rehab centres.
The pair live in a makeshift shack behind the home of relatives in Manenberg. The tiny dwelling is also home to 11 other people including seven children and a relative also addicted to tik and mandrax.
Roberts sleeps on the tarred ground which is part of the pavement. Her sleeping area also doubles up as the entrance hall of their modest home. A zinc door with a gaping hole at the bottom and locked by a chain is all that separates her from the rest of the community.
The children sleep on the floor in their grandparents’ room which has a single bed, some cupboards, a stove and crates to sit on. There is no electricity and no running water.
Roberts blames this life for her seven-year addiction which she feeds with petty theft and “help from friends”.
“Tik makes me forget about my life. Look at this, what do we have? Nothing. I sleep on the floor and when it rains it leaks in here and I have nowhere else to go - this is my life and I don’t like it.” Roberts has never sought help for her addiction.
Living a few metres away are two other women, mother of four, Jane Moses, 29, and mother of three, Lameez Bartlet, 35. The pair say they have sought help but to no avail.
“I went to the rehab centre down the road three times asking for help and all they kept telling me was to come back when there is space. I want help, I want to quit for the sake of my daughters,” said Bartlet.
Similarly, a Gugulethu family has for the past two years been trying to get one of their three tik-addicted children into rehab.
Relative Thobile Ndzube said they had got a committal from the court to get the Gugulethu social development office to assign one son to a rehab facility.
But this had not worked out. Ndzube said he felt that “social development is failing our communities, we have been going to their offices seeking help for the past two years but nothing has happened.
“The staff at the Gugulethu office keep telling us to send a drug addict to sign a register for a counselling session.
“Obviously he will not do that. It has been two years, we feel the department has failed us badly, if they don’t have space they must just say so.”
Ndzube’s brother Thando, 23, sleeps in a filthy room with a broken bed, broken windows and the vile smell of stale smoke. A plastic tub is behind the door filled with dirty water. The electricity connection has been cut to stop him from using his back room to smoke.
Ndzube said: “These children’s lives have become such a misery. Look at them now, how they’ve lost their self-respect, their self-esteem. They are just shadows of themselves and it’s heartbreaking.”
While the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use data indicates a drop in in-patients and a drastic increase in out-patients, none of the three families seeking assistance feel an out-patient programme is what is best for them.
Cathy Karassellos, clinical psychologist at the Observatory Drug Counselling centre, said many people believed in-patient treatment was better because the addict was locked up and kept away from drugs. But this was a misconception, she said.
“Out-patient treatment is generally best as it enables the person to learn how to deal with life in their usual environment.”
According to Sihle Ngobese, spokesman for Albert Fritz, MEC of Social Development, the department does not have a shortage of space at any government facilities and waiting periods for in-patients varies from facility to facility.