Durban - Pupils as young as 12 are allegedly taking prescription drugs purchased on the black market, while others are sniffing fumes from burnt steel wool or drinking cough mixture diluted with cooldrink during school hours to get a quick high.
A Phoenix teenager recalled sweating profusely, feeling limp and experiencing intense stomach cramps after she had come off a high from drinking the cough mixture concoction.
The girl, 15, had mixed the highly addictive Lenazine cough mixture with a fizzy cooldrink before drinking it. Three of her school friends had joined her in the “experiment” during school hours.
“We heard about the effects of this mixture and decided to try it out. We didn’t know what to expect, but others who tried it said it gave them an amazing feeling. We were the only ones who hadn’t tried it.”
She said they chose to take this concoction rather than smoke cannabis as it had no telltale signs, like a smell.
“We met in the toilets before the lunch break and mixed about three spoonfuls of the cough mixture in the cool drink before drinking it.”
The feeling of euphoria, she said, was intense.
“Everything slowed down for a good couple of hours. But then the withdrawal started, while I was at home. I had this intense pain. I tossed on my bed. I did not know what to do. I called my friend but she said she was okay and that I should relax. She also begged me not to tell anyone anything.”
She said after about an hour, she had to tell her brother and that he “gave me tons of water to flush it out of my system”. He had then told their mother.
The teen said she had not experimented since, but her friends often did.
In Chatsworth, a teenage boy described how he discovered Xanax while with a group of friends.
“Getting the Xanax was easy. We went to a pharmacy in Pinetown and got the drug without a prescription. After having it, we realised it gave us a great high and we decided to make a business out of it.”
The boy, from Welbedacht, said he got together with friends and they pooled money to buy the Xanax.
“At first I sold it for R7.50 at school. The demand was huge, I reduced the price to R5 a pop. I generally sell-out before school is out.”
The teen, 17, said the pharmacy supplied him on demand and asked no questions.
He added they often smoked weed to supplement the “high”.
“The Xanax is an anti-depressant so it makes me happy, the weed makes me feel great while the cough mixture makes me feel numb.”
A 16-year-old from Mount Vernon, opposite Hillary, said she began taking the Xanax after her friends forced her to take it to be “cool.”
“Xanax is a tablet for stress and I was always stressed with school. My friends consume up to five tablets at once. I took it for six months until I got caught.
“When my parents found out they were very upset and told me I could have died. I took it because of the feelings of euphoria and sometimes I chased it with weed, which gave me an even more intense feeling.”
She said she and her friends would buy the Xanax from a drug peddler who lived nearby, but soon after she was caught, her parents moved, so she hasn’t interacted with any of her friends.
Anti-Drug Forum South Africa head Sam Pillay said tablets like Xanax and opioid-based cough mixtures which contain codeine were fast becoming drugs of choice among school children
He said the staff at his office in Chatsworth fielded several complaints a week.
“Over a dozen schools contacted us because they suspected the pupils were on drugs. During drug testing, some admitted taking Xanax. They said they could not do without it.”
Xanax is a Schedule 5 drug, commonly used in the short-term management of anxiety disorders. It requires a doctor’s script because it has a potential for abuse or dependence.
Tracy Williams, of Wentworth Angels, said during a raid last week, police confiscated Xanax tablets, cannabis and cough mixture from pupils at a secondary school.
“One child was high after taking a Xanax, then smoking a cigarette and cannabis. She was immediately suspended.”
Williams said that pharmacies in the area had been cautioned not to sell cough mixture to pupils.
Mohamed Shah, of the Drug Action Committee in Phoenix, claimed some pupils sniffed burnt steel wool for a high.
A Phoenix principal said: “Recently, a security guard noticed that a pupil, holding a purple concoction in a Sprite bottle, looked withdrawn. He notified me and, when I sniffed the bottle, I knew something was amiss. The child admitted he had mixed Halls cough drops with Dispirin in the cooldrink, which he drank.
“We notified his parents and asked them to a meeting but they refused. They would rather shield their kids.”