South Africa’s Indian population has much to commend itself. A flourishing culture, a proud culinary tradition, and a wonderful contribution to South African arts ensure the place of Indian South Africa as a true boon to the nation as a whole.
Furthermore, Indians in South Africa have played a very large part in the moral and social development of the nation into the proud country we know and love today. Let us not forget that it was his experiences in Durban which inspired Gandhi to take up the struggle for freedom – first in South Africa, and then in India itself.
The first wave of Gandhi’s activisms were actioned through the Indian community of South Africa. His experiences here paved the way both for his later work in India, and for South Africa’s own struggle for freedom and democracy. Indians in South Africa (and South Africa has the largest Indian population outside of India itself) have long played a vital role in the culture and government of South Africa – and have come to be seen as something of a moral compass by which the nation may guide itself.
However, a worrying new development within South African Indian communities, particularly in Durban, is putting this reputation for exemplary culture and morality at threat. A drug, ‘Sugars’, is taking Durban by storm – and it seems to be centred upon the Indian community.
Sugars and Rat Poison
‘Sugars’ – is a cheap but potent mix of heroin and cocaine left over from other drug deals – indeed, it may have begun its reign as a way for drug dealing gangs to further eke out the dregs of their supplies. The amounts of actual heroin and cocaine within the mixture may be relatively small. In order to bulk out the product, sugars is cut with whatever is to hand. Sometimes this may be as innocuous as actual sugar, or baby powder.
Sometimes it may be cut with far more deadly substances – rat poison being a common bulking agent. The most easily accessible rat poisons work in one of two ways – they either prevent the blood from clotting while simultaneously causing capillary rupturing and thus massive, unchecked bleeding within the body, or through hyper calcification – in which an excess of calcium circulates within the rodent’s blood, causing the vital organs to harden and eventually break down while the rat is still alive.
Other forms of rat poison cause the rodent’s gut to create toxic gases, or contain strychnine – the particularly horrible poison used by famed poisoner Daisy Louise de Melker, to dispatch her victims. The safety implications of a drug cut with rat poison are clear. Especially as, worryingly, ‘sugars’ appears to be circulating primarily amongst young people – the typical profile of a sugars user is a young (shockingly young) male of Indian descent, between the ages of 13 and 22. Once the high of the drugs themselves have worn off (roughly every four hours), a ‘roster’ of rat-poisoning symptoms begin to make themselves known – ranging from stomach cramps and joint pains to some particularly vile, gruesome, and generally horrendous experiences upon the toilet. Attempting to keep ‘the roster’ away, people take more sugars – and addiction follows extremely swiftly.
Addiction to sugars can be treated chemically with ‘Subutex’ (buprenorphine), which keeps the cravings and withdrawal symptoms at bay while the drug evacuates the body. This is a vital stage in recovery – but perhaps more important is treating the emotional and societal reasons behind the problem. Most South African treatment centres work assiduously to challenge the problems which brought on the addiction in the first place. Often traditional Indian methods are used in treatment – yoga, for example, features heavily – which not only appears to experience a high success rate, but is entirely appropriate, given the demographic of the majority of addicts. The sugars problem, unfortunately, appears to have taken a larger toll upon Indian communities than those of other ethnicities – it has in particular been the scourge of Chatsworth, a predominantly Indian suburb of Durban. This would, therefore, seem to be an issue which the Indian community as a whole needs to take account of, look into, and pro-actively tackle in every way that is can.
Disengagement of Indian Youth
Certain commentators have blamed disillusionment and disconnection with their culture for the prevalence of sugars addiction amongst Indian youth. Boredom is spoken of, a feeling that there is a lack of opportunity, no scope for them in the modern world.
Many believe that the youth need to be engaged with on a positive level, that they need to be further integrated into their communities if progress is to be made. The problem is that sugars itself is in the process of disintegrating the very community which could under other circumstances be rallying around to staunch the problem. Earlier this year, the Times reported on a gang of Indian sugars addicts who have desecrated a Hindu cemetery in Chatsworth – hanging their underwear from the Shiva lingam, urinating in the kovil, stripping copper from the cemetery cabling, and having sex upon the graves. This kind of behaviour naturally does not endear them to the community –the report warned of potential community action of quite a different sort – namely, vigilantism. This, and other, similar, societal problems caused by sugars addicts (thievery, vagrancy, antisocial acts perpetrated when high) is in the process of breaking down what was once a supportive, coherent community bound together by bonds of culture and community spirit.
However, rather than reacting with anger and violence (hatred, although providing a temporary gel which brings people together, divides and ultimately disintegrates a community in the end), the Indian community should come together, present a strong, united, but welcoming and loving front. The Indian community should perhaps work upon making Indian culture a viable, welcoming space in which the Indian youth can thrive – rather than feeling disenchanted, and disenfranchised, and (most deadly of all) bored.