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“Every second woman in Actonville addicted to Stilpane”

The Review Newspaper | 6 June 2013

A silent drug addiction has been ravaging South African communities. Actonville, Farramere, Northmead and Rynsoord have not been left out.

Classified as a legal concoction of chemicals, the pain relieving, schedule 5 prescription medication has been abused by those in the throes of poverty as well as people with some extra cash to splurge.

While men have been known to indulge, women seem to be particularly susceptible to the entrapments of Stilpane.

Concerned resident, Cecilia Maiselae – The Review

Shahida Chothia has been living in Lahore Courts, a set of council flats that form the façade of the Actonville CBD, for the last 21 years. Being an active community worker and a member of the local ANC branch, she has been at the forefront of trying to rid the community of drug abuse.

Rightfully so, she has identified the rot that has seeped into the lives of so many young people via the nyoepe, mandrax, dagga and cocaine that has been so easily available. But her work in the community has shattered the image of a stereotypical drug user.

“Every second women in Actonville, whether it’s the flats or big houses, they are all on Stilpane. People are not buying a packet of twenty; they are buying bottles of a thousand at a time. I don’t know if it puts them on a high but it makes them very thin. It makes you lose a lot of weight. It kills your kidneys,” said Shahida during an interview at her flat.

While it’s unlikely that one in every two women living in Actonville is an addict, the passion with which she engaged the topic, spoke to the many encounters she has had with victims in the community.

“We have lost so many girls,” she lamented. “I phoned Carte Blanche after a mother came to me crying saying her child died because of the addiction. The girl was 21-years-old and she had a baby of a year. Carte Blanche said they were looking for two mothers to speak to them anonymously. Two days before they were supposed to come and record, the mothers pulled out. That very mother was just as high on Stilpane herself.”

What is Stilpane?

Stilpane is a pain relief medication, registered as schedule 5 drug that contains 320mg of Paracetamol, 8mg of Codeine phosphate, 32mg of Caffeine anhydrous and 150mg of Meprobamate.

Package warnings indicate that, “prolonged continuous use of this medication may lead to dependency and addiction. Paracetamol dosages in excess of those recommended may cause severe liver damage. Prolonged excessive use can cause irreversible kidney damage.”

According to Actonville residents, the drug is readily available at some pharmacies on the East Rand. “Some years ago I was working with a Muslim lady from Mayfair. She said to me one day, ‘Shahida, there’s a tablet I need’. The minute she said that, I knew she was talking about Stilpane. Reyhana said the doctors didn’t want to give it to her. I shouldn’t have, but I asked her if she wanted me to go and buy it for her. She wanted R200 worth. I went to one pharmacy and he refused. I knew somebody else who was on Stilpane and I sent her. He sold her the drug.”

Shauneen Beukes, a spokesperson for Aspen Pharmaceuticals, acknowledged that abuse of prescription medicines has been a global concern.

“Addressing the problem requires the co-operation of all healthcare professionals, the pharmaceutical industry and regulators whom collectively have a responsibility to ensure the safe use of medicines by patients who need them.”

Other drug related issues

Cecilia Maiselae is another Actonville flat resident who has taken a stand against drugs in the densely populated structures. Acknowledging the devastating effect of prescription drugs, she insisted that more needed to be done against the illicit substance abuse trade.

She said that while there are many decent police officers at the forefront of the drug battle, there have been some who have been seen in cahoots with drug lords.

“You see a policeman’s car going to a suspect’s house and does not take any action. Even if nobody called him, the policeman likes that house. You can see there’s dealing he’s doing. So, how can we fight crime if the people we trust are the criminals themselves? I can take you to people who have evidence of this but we fear for our lives,” said Cecilia.

Teddy Perumal of Delhi Court Flats – The Review

“There’s a guy here in the flat, I won’t mention his name. I used to see school children in uniforms. Every morning I would stand by the flat gate until he moved out of the flat to meet the children outside. I think about 85% of children here are on drugs. And it starts with children as young as 12, including girls.”

Teddy Perumal, the chairperson of the Delhi Court Resident’s Association, also identified drugs as a major problem. “In this flat there are a lot of youngsters from the age of 12 to 18 years that are involved in hard drugs like cat, dagga and nyoepe. We see it every day. But one thing I can tell you, in this flat we don’t have any ‘pushers’.”

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