DRUG AVAILABILITY HITS ALL-TIME HIGH
Cape Town has become a popular end destination for a bouquet of powerful narcotics including cocaine, heroin and other designer drugs.
And it seems with the advent of the festive season, drug smugglers are upping the quantity of drugs smuggled into the city to meet the expected demand from locals and tourists alike.
In the last few weeks police have arrested nine people in four separate cocaine busts at Cape Town International Airport. But even though the availability of designer drugs is hitting an all time high in the city, methamphetamine (tik) is still the most widely used drug in Cape Town.
Police spokesman Billy Jones said the Police Organised Crime Investigation Unit was conducting ongoing anti-drug operations at Cape Town International Airport in conjunction with crime intelligence structures, police protection and security services and customs officers.
The street value of the cocaine confiscated in recent operations is estimated to be in the region of R2.5 million.
Jones said drug trafficking into the city usually showed a sharp increase in the run-up to and during the festive season.
"Cape Town cannot be considered a drug gateway to the rest of the country. We believe the drugs are intended for the local market."
Most of the cocaine and Ecstasy police have seized comes from countries in South America, Jones said.
Charles Parry, of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Unit at the Medical Research Council (MRC), said he was not surprised at the increasing quantities of cocaine being brought into the city.
The unit told parliament earlier this year that specialist drug treatment centres had reported the use of tik as a primary or secondary drug of abuse had more than tripled between the second half of 2003 and the first half of 2004.
About 60% of patients in treatment for tik-related problems were younger than 20 and more than 40% took the drug daily.
"The one major message is that there seems to be a big use of tik in the city, while people are now also increasingly turning to crack and cocaine."
Parry said: "They are taking drugs like tik or cocaine and then taking other drugs to bring them down. It used to be that the drugs of choice were dagga and Mandrax but in some cases we have even found heroin use."
Cocaine's traditional use by the wealthier echelon of the drug market has changed along with the racial profile of the drug's users. The MRC had found in its research that in Cape Town one in five people admitted to rehabilitation centres listed cocaine as a primary or secondary drug.
The most recent statistics showed 47% of those in treatment were coloured and 45% white. This showed a marked increase in coloured users in recent years, with 37% of patients being coloured in 2003 and 29% in 2001.
Parry said: "It is clearly no longer a white upper-class drug. But it is still more expensive than tik."
Cathy Karasselo, of the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre, said:
"Dagga and Mandrax are still the major two, but addiction is a life-long process and you often move on to harder drugs as the drugs stop having their desired effect on you."