Are crystal drugs popular in South Africa?

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Are crystal drugs popular in South Africa?

24 June, 2022Articles, News

Crystal drugs (colloquially known as “tik”) is used by and very popular amongst the emerging working class in South Africa.

Crystal drugs, the most widely used synthetic drug globally, has spread rapidly throughout the South African society, and has become very popular. It is a highly addictive synthetic drug that increases energy and feelings of euphoria. It is locally referred to as “tik” due to the “ticking” sound produced when smoked.

Crystal drugs are perceived as the fastest-growing addictive substance ever introduced into the market, and at some point, have even exceeded commonly used drugs such as dagga, mandrax and ecstasy. Crystal drug use in South Africa is regarded as a recent phenomenon.

Repeated use can have some psychological effects.

These include:

  • anxiety, irritability and aggressive or violent behaviour
  • alertness and increased concentration
  • hyperactivity and insomnia
  • increased energy, libido, self-esteem, confidence, and sociability
  • delusions of grandeur with a sensation of power and invincibility
  • hallucinations and paranoia
  • psychomotor agitation and compulsive skin picking, leading to skin sores
  • repetitive and obsessive behaviours
  • psychosomatic disorders, where an apparent physical symptom or ailment is caused by a mental disturbance

When taken regularly or in high doses, crystal drugs can cause a condition known as methamphetamine psychosis.

The Western Cape province of South Africa is a mainly Coloured area and many of its communities struggle with high rates of ‘gangsterism’, drug abuse, crime and organised crime. Compounding the problem is the existence of crystal drugs, which has rooted itself deep within the already affected social milieu of these communities that is already clouded by the impact of substance abuse.

The rapid and extensive spread of crystal drugs remains a problem in South Africa and is a major under-researched phenomenon.  Evidence of the impact of crystal drug use on society, including some of the hard-hit communities are well documented. Crystal drug use has also been shown to be associated with childhood sexual abuse and HIV sexual risk behaviours including commercialisation of sex and having unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners.

South Africa is home to the largest and most established crystal drug consumption market in East and Southern Africa. New Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime research has found that crystal drug consumption is far more widespread and has markets far better established across the region than previously understood.

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