PARTY DRUGS CRACKDOWN Cops Gather Intelligence On Events To Determine Raids Western Cape authorities are launching a festive season drug crackdown on nightclubs and many events such as concerts and street parties. They will be on the lookout for "party" drugs such as cocaine, heroin, Ecstasy, LSD and tik. This comes after shocking new statistics that there could be between 12 000 and 18 000 heroin addicts in Cape Town. And that between 33% and 49% of addicts who go to treatment centres in Cape Town and Gauteng are addicted to a cocktail of four or five different drugs. Western Cape Community Safety MEC Leonard Ramatlakane confirmed yesterday that police deployment at festive season events such as concerts, street parties, raves and nightclubs would be increased dramatically. He warned that organisers and nightclub owners would have to take responsibility if narcotics were found on their premises. The police were also feverishly gathering intelligence on events to be hosted in Cape Town and this would be used to determine where they would raid. "My message to club owners is to ensure that their clubs are clean and those who go there must ensure that they enjoy themselves within the law," Ramatlakane said. The most recent research by the Medical Research Council, revealed to the Weekend Argus yesterday, showed that Cape Town is not the only major city in South Africa experiencing a rise in drug abuse. So called poly-substance abuse is rocketing in both Cape Town and Gauteng, where between 33% and 49% of patients being treated at rehabilitation clinics reported using four or more drugs at the same time. In Durban, treatment for Mandrax abuse rose by 8% in the first half of this year. A study of heroin users, carried out in July and August this year, estimated that there could be 12 000 to 18 000 users in Cape Town alone. Ramatlakane said the Safer Festive Season campaign, launched recently in the Western Cape, included focusing on hotspots such as shopping malls, tourist locations, beaches, trains, community shebeens and taverns and nightclubs. This includes the drug crackdown. He also asked parents to take responsibility for their children and to ensure that they were not doing drugs or abusing alcohol when they went out to party. A review of drug treatment figures, collected by the SA Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Abuse project, from more than 20 treatment centres in Cape Town, indicates: * A dramatic increase in treatment demand for drugs such as dagga, Mandrax, cocaine and heroin as primary drugs of abuse over time (each increasing by 8% a year between 1996 and this year). * A sudden change in the number of patients having tik (methamphetamine) as primary or secondary drug of abuse since the second half of 2003 (from 121 patients to 376 in the first half of 2004), with over half of these patients under 20 years old. * An increase in poly-drug use, with 10% of patients treated in Cape Town in the second half of 2003 reporting four or more substances of abuse. * Almost one in five HIV patients met the criteria for current alcohol abuse or dependence. * And, based on the experience of international research, the economic cost of alcohol and drug abuse to the province is likely to exceed R1 billion a year. Cape Town drug counsellors and outpatient units also report a dramatic growth in heroin abuse, as well as the use of tik by teenagers. Club owners who were interviewed by the Weekend Argus this week said management were on the lookout for telltale signs of tik usage by teens. According to clubbers and detectives, Ecstasy, while very much more popular in the 1990s, is still around - at the more avant-garde clubs as well as at trance parties held in the countryside, where LSD also gets circulated. Dagga remains the illegal substance that is most popular and most easily available, being touted on many city and suburban street corners in broad daylight. But it is cocaine - and to a lesser extent speed (amphetamines) - that is back in vogue with clubbers, whether they be local, West African or "Euro-trash". Cocaine - including crack cocaine - can be bought on many street corners in the city and regulars at the different clubs often know the name and cellphone number of the regular dealer. Club management by-and-large say they try their best to prevent illicit drugs being sold or consumed on their premises. It seems freelance dealers are the most likely to get short shrift from management. "You can't totally get rid of them (drugs), so the best thing is to make sure people aren't being sold poison by fly-by-nights," said a manager.