Global opioid overdose ‘holocaust’ also raging in Emfuleni

Craig Kotze

Emfuleni is experiencing an unprecedented wave of heroin overdose deaths with “countless” users and addicts just “disappearing” from both townships and suburbs.

Along with North America and Europe, Emfuleni is bearing the brunt of overdose deaths – caused by a complex blend of social, economic and drug dealing dynamics – which is decimating the ranks of both users and addicts.

This is according to a number of heroin addicts and users interviewed under condition of anonymity by Ster & Vaalweekblad before International Overdose day on Friday, August 31.

A huge barrier to developing effective counter-strategies is the lack of reliable official statistics on opioid-related overdose deaths in Emfuleni.

“It’s real but it seems to be officially invisible and the lack of reliable official statistics and official cooperation – combined with lack of resources – is severely hampering treatment and rehabilitation efforts everywhere in Emfuleni,” informed sources told Ster & Vaalweekblad’s reporters

And like the HIV and AIDS epidemic, stigmatisation of drug addicts from all walks of life is creating a massive barrier to those caught in the grip of heroin from coming forward for help and staying on treatment programmes, say addicts and experts.

Opioid addicts interviewed by Ster & Vaalweekblad’s reporters said addicts seemed to be disappearing every day from both township and suburb streets.

“Overdosing is using more and more to get a bigger kick as well as a problem of spiking of heroin by drug addicts to increase profits – either way it’s Russian Roulette,” one former addict said.

According to Sanca Vaal – the leading organisation fighting and treating drug and substance addiction in Emfuleni, more needs to be done on opioid awareness.

“Lack of reliable statistics on opioid overdose deaths is a major gap at present and all stakeholders need to do more for awareness,” said Sanca Vaal director Magriet Botha.

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