Addictive drugs contain chemicals that alter the way nerve cells function in our brain. Nearly all of these chemicals target the brain’s reward system. Overstimulating this system often produces a euphoric high, compelling drug users to repeat the behavior or take more drugs. However, as one continues to abuse drugs, the brain starts to produce less dopamine or reduce dopamine receptors.
Subsequently, the drug user loses the ability to experience the same high. As an effect of the reduced high, a user needs more drugs to achieve the same effects, thus leading to tolerance. Drugs that cause dependence and tolerance often have the potential to cause addiction requiring drug abuse therapy and drug withdrawal treatment.
However, those who cannot afford more drugs often resort to other means to sustain a high. One such technique gaining popularity among the users is ‘bluetoothing.’ It is quite common in the slums of Johannesburg, South Africa. Bluetoothing refers to an individual taking a potent dose of drugs and then withdrawing a small amount of one’s blood that is then inserted into a second person. The practice helps users share their resources (drugs and money) and get high.
In the Johannesburg slums, drug addicts could be seen taking popular local street drug nyaope (a combination of heroin, antiretroviral drugs, crushed glass, acid and even rat poison) with a near-instantaneous effect. Unfortunately, the effects do not last long; maybe an hour or two, sometimes less than an hour, leaving its users look for more or new techniques to extend its effects.
To sustain the high from nyaope, the locals resort to bluetoothing that involves a user taking the deadly mix of nyaope and then withdrawing a small amount of his/her blood and reinserting it into someone else’s veins. Despite the deadly drug combination, the users are also at risk of serious infections like HIV and hepatitis C.
Dangerous or pointless?
According to Mary Mashapa, a social worker with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA), though nyaope is an extremely dangerous addictive mix, people hooked on it can do anything to get high. One in five users in the area has tried bluetoothing. According to a South African addiction researcher, though a popular practice, bluetoothing may be pointless as the drug once diffused into the bloodstream loses its potency and fails to generate a high for the other user.
Although the practice is rampant among the locals, the government refuses to have any information on nyaope users or bluetoothing. As per Prof. Kebogile Mokwena, the Head of the Department of Public Health, they do not have any statistics on it.
Drug abuse in U.S.
One of the deadliest epidemics in the American history, drug overdoses claim thousands of innocent lives every year across all demographics. Amongst the many steps taken to tackle the epidemic is the opening of supervised consumption or injection sites. By allowing people to take drugs under a supervised staff, these sites act as a harm reduction tool by preventing potential overdoses. Additionally, these sites also connect people to treatment options, allowing them entry into drug detox and addiction treatment programs, if they are ready. Though the facilities do not act as deterrents to opioid consumption, they do help prevent overdose deaths and ultimately guides them to long-term recovery option.
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