LEPHALALE — Are you addicted to something? Do you need something to relax, to sleep, get up, to study and to concentrate? Or do you just need something to make you feel better? Something you are not supposed to talk about?
Maybe this “something” is a bit too much cough mixture every day or to smoke dagga before you go home? Maybe you need a glass of wine to relax after a long day at work? The truth is – you are not only ruining your own life, but also the lives of everyone who cares about you.
Mogol Post interviewed Dr Mphelo, Head of Casualties and Dalene de Villiers, Hospital Manager at Mediclinic Lephalale to hear what their opinion is about drugs and substance abuse in Lephalale. Is there a specific personality type that uses drugs? Is it possible to quit completely and to live a life without a “kick”? What are the most common drugs being used and abused in Lephalale? Are there many school learners with drug problems?
According to Dr Mphelo and De Villiers, there are often people admitted in the hospital who took an overdose of prescription drugs, or children who use drugs. An average of two patients per month are admitted for suicide attempts and in most of these cases, prescription medication was used to overdose.
Dr Mphelo said a lot of female patients were admitted due to cannabis lately and that they show a “hysterical type behaviour,” he said.
Recent admissions also include school children and according to Dr Mphelo, over the counter medicine is a huge problem because it is easily accessible. One example is the abuse of cough mixture, especially amongst high school learners. It is easy to get, you cannot stop them from renewing it and it is very difficult to detect. The adrenaline gives them a “high”.
Dalene said alcohol is one of the main problems amongst adults and that it is the example that children see from their parents. “When you are stressed out and you get home and you drink a glass of wine or whiskey in order to relax, your children will do the same,” she said.
“We get a lot of patients that, when we test them for drugs, we find amphetamine in the blood (amphetamines are stimulant drugs, which means they speed up the messages travelling between the brain and the body.
“They tend to drink it when they party so that they can party longer and have more energy. It is found in powder form as well as tablets. Examples of amphetamines are Concerta and Ritalin which are stimulants that keep you awake and focused. Some students also use it when they study,” De Villiers said.
According to Dr Mphelo, it can also cause heart palpitations if you don’t use it as prescribed, which can result in death. “Some parents even ask doctors to prescribe it so that the child can do better at school”.
“Other problems we experience is that drug addicts are now using Sobutex, prescribed by general practitioners, to help them with the withdrawal symptoms when they want to get ‘clean’. That is most of the times not the case that the person wants to get clean, they know that the Sobutex can give you the very same feeling as for instance cocaine, but it is ‘legal’. It is not really addictive, but drug addicts use it because they know it gives you the same feeling. It’s a replacement and it is cheaper. These people know what doctors will prescribe. They manipulate the system. They do ‘doctor hopping’ and they actually know what they are doing. When someone asks you to prescribe these medicines, you can be sure there is a problem. Then you know it is not the real thing,” he said.
The heart-breaking fact is that most people need something to make them feel better.
“The majority of people take sleeping tablets, one of the most addictive being Stilnox. Once patients have started drinking it, they will complain if you don’t prescribe it. They will call me in the middle of the night to ask for Stilnox. It is actually not supposed to be so freely available. Once you stop taking the sleeping tablets, you struggle to fall asleep without them, forcing you to start taking them again. Drugs like Urbanol are anti-psychotic drugs and no-one is supposed to take them unless prescribed by a psychologist,” Dr Mphelo said.
De Villiers said substance abuse has a lot to do with stress management and what your coping mechanisms are.
Teenagers and university students don’t have stress all the time. Their lifestyle, peer group pressure, and desire to be part of a group are factors that can make them stress.
Where is it going to end?
Dr Mphelo as well as Dalene feel that education is important. “Primary and secondary school learners should be educated about the real side-effects and consequences of drug and substance abuse. We have to start a programme so that we can go to the psychiatric institutions. Then they can see what the consequences are. There are no psychiatric institutions in Lephalale and no-one knows where or how you end up. When you see how it is, it’s scary,” they agreed. Dr Mapela is very passionate about going to the schools. “It is not a quick fix but we will invest in the future”.
Dalene and Dr Mphelo decided to start with a Drug Education Campaign by targeting all schools – even primary schools – in order to assist in the drug war that is currently a reality in Lephalale.
Adriaan Joubert, principal at Hoërskool Ellisras, said they will give their full cooperation regarding a drug awareness campaign early in 2019.
Parents think that it won’t happen to their children. The truth is that I often see that children are exposed to drugs and then they don’t have the skills or knowledge to decline them. They also don’t realise what the consequences are.
According to Joubert, when a child takes drugs, it is his or her way of seeking acceptance and drugs are almost always a substitute for a void.
The Police, the CPF as well as Mediclinic Lephalale will be part of this initiative.
There will also be a number available where anonymity will be ensured.
“We will help. We will support you,” said De Villiers.
The anti-drug campaign will kick off early in 2019. Contact Dalene de Villiers at 082 417 9506 for more information and/or if you want to get involved.