Street names: also known as “Plazana or Kwape.”
What is Nyaope?
Nyaope, also known as Whoonga, is a uniquely South African street drug that is highly addictive and destructive. It is a cocktail of marijuana (dagga) & Black tar heroin. According to rumour, it can also contain Anti-retro-viral drugs, rat poison, Meth, pool acid, detergent powder and even powder from the glass of flat-screen television sets. Nyaope is usually smoked.¹
Recent reports estimate more than 100 000 individuals are currently addicted to Nyaope in SA.
It is one of the cheapest illicit drugs available and, therefore, a favourite among school children. In South Africa’s underdeveloped urban areas, known as townships, the drug retails for R 30. The situation is critical, and Nyaope addiction is ravaging the townships. Children as young as nine years old drop out of school to work for drug dealers to get a free hit. Young girls work as prostitutes to pay for their drugs. See Lolly Lounges. It leads to increasing violence, stealing and robbery among the youth. Families live in fear of their children because of drugs like Nyaope.
How is Nyaope used?
Users roll Nyaope with dagga in a zoll to smoke – because it is tough to smoke in powder form. The amount of dagga determines the strength of the zoll. A person can become highly addicted after using the drug only once. A user will soon feel as if he needs several hits to make it through the day. First-time users often think it is only marijuana they smoke and are unaware of the dangerous, addictive chemicals the zoll contains.
There is also a craze among Nyaope users called Bluetooth, where addicts share a Nayope hit. One addict will inject himself with Nyaope and then draw some of his blood and give it to another addict who injects himself with it. It is a dangerous game that causes horrible abscesses at injection sites and transfers HIV between addicts. In addition, inflamed sores can lead to limb amputations.
What is the effect of the drug?
Once Nyaope is smoked, the user experiences intense euphoria, deep contentment and relaxation. The user feels warm when cold, calm when angry and filled when hungry. The feeling is beyond human experience, and the intense effect lasts for about 2 – 4 hours. When this blissful state wears off after six to 24 hours, agonising withdrawal symptoms set in like severe abdominal pain and backache, sweating, chills, anxiety, restlessness, depression, nausea and diarrhoea.
For some, the less pleasant side effects include a painful stomach, muscle cramps, and generally feeling ill, but when this ease up, they use it again. Users can go days without eating, damaging their immune systems and making them prone to other illnesses. If they eat or drink before they had a hit, they will vomit.
Withdrawal from Nyaope / Whoonga
The withdrawal is the unbearable stomach cramps, nausea, mood swings, and aggression, making Nyaope so addictive. The heroin in Nyaope is an opioid, and opioids give way to severe withdrawal symptoms. A user is terrified of dealing with feelings of anxiety and physical pain, so the only possible cure available is another hit, and then another one, and another one after that. Users say they have to use up to 5 bags per day to keep the withdrawal symptoms away.
- Watery eyes
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
Vomiting and diarrhoea could lead to dehydration and other body disturbances. Aspiration is a risk – it happens when a semi-conscious or unconscious person breaths vomit into their lungs. Aspiration of solid material may cause immediate asphyxia and death; smaller particles may cause a collapse of a lung, lobe or segment; particulate material may lead to a sub-acute inflammatory reaction in the lungs. Massive pulmonary aspiration of gastric contents carries a very high mortality rate – 62%.
If the vomit aspiration is suspected, the patient should be tilted head down and preferably placed on the right side. The right lung is more often affected because of the main bronchi’s configuration; this position will localise aspiration to the right side while the upper airway is being cleared and the patient is oxygenated. Mortality is lower when aspiration is confined to one lobe than more widespread through the lungs.
Drug detection times²
Please use these figures as a guide only:
- Cannabis: 7-30 days in urine and up to 2 weeks in blood
- Heroin: 3-4 days in urine and up to 12 hours in blood
References & Resources
¹ “Consider our plight”: A cry for help from Nyaope users. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1025984815000241
² The role of the locus of control in Nyaope addiction treatment. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/20786190.2016.1223794
What is the effect of the drug? http://www.elimclin.co.za/…/sorika_de_swardt
Immediate care after aspiration of vomit. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1365-2044.1975.tb00928.x
² Drug detention times. https://www.drugs.ie/drugs_info/about_drugs/how_long_do_drugs_stay_in_your_system/