Sat Sep 23 00:32:08 CAT 2017

'My son's drug hell ruining us'

By Zenoyise Madikwa | 2011-07-29 07:23:54.0

Jackson Mthembu's agony

ANC strongman Jackson Mthembu says South Africans need to unite in an effort to cut off the drug supply chain that is destroying families.

He made the plea through Sowetan, two days after pouring his heart out on Radio 702 about his first-born son's battle with drug addiction.

An emotional Mthembu said his son from a previous marriage started using drugs when he was only 11.

"We did not notice it until after he failed Matric.

"We were taken aback by his bad results because he had been a top achiever. He repeated the grade but failed again.

"I learnt through friends that he was doing drugs.

"He later confessed that he started early juvenile experimentation with drugs at 11 and progressed to where he was.

"He would steal clothes, food, his siblings' play stations, electrical household items - anything he could sell for money to get a fix. At times it would happen with me sleeping in the house."

He said his son's drug habit had got him arrested several times. Mthembu said he had begged, threatened, and prayed for his son - and kept blaming himself for not having become aware of his addiction much earlier.

"He has been in and out of rehab, has made promises that he would change but he always relapses.

"I have done everything a parent can possibly do to help him but nothing has come of it.

"When you have done everything, what do you do? I told him that I did want to see him again until he decides he wants to change or I will meet him when he is dead."

Mthembu said he was reduced to tears when he saw his son at the Bree Taxi Rank recently.

"He was as dirty as seven pigs. The only thing he could say was can 'I have money for bread'. This is something that will forever haunt me.

"I could not live with the fact that he left all the comforts at home to live like a pig. We need a body of parents who are going through this to mobilise against drug dealers."

Adrie Vermeulen, director of Sanca Phoenix House, a substance abuse clinic, said most addicts revealed they started experimenting with drugs at the age of 12 through friends and older siblings.

"This age group is concerning because 10 years ago the average starting age was 19.

"This is a sign that there is something very wrong in the societal fibre. We found that it is easier for dealers to use young people to get them to peddle drugs and use them.

"The focus needs to be more on prevention than treatment because it is difficult to treat addiction."

She said 80 percent of addictions were alcohol-related followed by dagga then heroine. Then came cocaine and CAT.

She said Western Cape had the highest number of addicts, followed by Gauteng.