A wave of 381 addicts turned up at a single state treatment centre in Tshwane on one day last week to get help for "bluetooth" addiction, said the Gauteng Department of Social Development.
"About 250 service users volunteered for treatment at Dr Fabian and Florence Ribeiro treatment centre, in Tshwane... It was a welcome development that a further 131 brought themselves to the centre for admission, bringing the total admission on that day to 381," said department spokesperson Mbangwa Xaba. The addicts arrived last week and almost all were men or boys. Of the 381, a total of 229 have already discharged themselves; those remaining have been allocated social workers are are involved in group sessions.
"This comes at huge cost to the department that is already spending about R11 000 on each patient," said Xaba.
That centre can take only 300 patients and already had 200 patients. "Its capacity was stretched beyond the limit as 581 patients were admitted on that day."
"Bluetooth" refers to the sharing of blood between drug users so they can share a high when some of them don't have enough money to buy their own drugs. They are reportedly nyaope addicts, a drug concoction which includes heroin. The emergence of this was reported on in February by The Times, the Pretoria News, Eyewitness News and SABC.
The department said that 17 youngsters had died from bluetooth in Tshwane alone.
Some patients were moved to other rehab centres, then this was reconsidered as the department said it was better to keep them closer to their families. Some were then sent to hospitals.
The department dismissed reports that the addicts were ill-treated at one of the centres as "reckless and unfortunate". "They undermine strides dissuading young people from exposing themselves to substance abuse especially the deadly Bluetooth trend," said Xaba.
"Nyaope is what is classified as 'designer drug', because of its makeshift concoction, therefore physical withdraw symptoms are severe and difficult to manage even medically.
"Equally, when service users arrive at the centre they battle with institutionalised arrangements such as routine, meal times, bathing, exercising etc. The department is content with the progress thus far. All the service users at the centre have surpassed physical withdrawal symptoms, feeling better and cooperating with routine. The department is arranging the first weekend visits this coming weekend."