Last week, I introduced the topic of tik, and I spent some time elaborating on how it’s become one of the worst drug problems in the history of South Africa. Today I’m going to go into more detail on the physical addiction and side-effects of the drug.
One of the most important things about tik is its availability. It’s cheap, and what’s more, you can actually make it in your own back yard. Maybe that’s an understatement, but the fact remains that it isn’t an imported drug, like cocaine. It’s usually made locally, even if the ingredients aren’t sold in your local supermarket. This alone makes it extremely dangerous. The economics of the situation are simple. Like any consumer product, the tik market is subject to laws of supply and demand, just like cabbages and detergent powder. So, if supply is relatively easy to organise, then the price will be relatively lower. And a lower price means more addicts and greater prevalence, especially in the case of a drug that has a lasting and intense high. In an addict’s terms, tik is very good for value for money. Its relatively low price also makes it attractive to addicts in poorer communities.
Once you start to describe the effects of the drug, you start to understand why it is so prevalent among the youth. There are basically two types of drugs – downers, like Mandrax, that make you feel more relaxed, and stimulants, like cocaine, that give you energy and a euphoric mood. Tik is a stimulant. It produces feelings of euphoria and increased energy. It makes even shy, reserved kids feel like they’re millionaires. It is not uncommon for tik addicts to stay awake in excess of 24 hours at a time, frenetically seeking activity and behaving in an extremely extroverted fashion.
The brain science behind tik is very simple. Dopamine is the happiness chemical (or neurotransmitter) in our brains. By causing the release of dopamine, tik causes the user to feel good about themselves, their situation, and about everything in general, even if there’s nothing particularly good about the state they are in. This dopamine-adjusting effect also makes it highly addictive, because coming down from a tik high is a terrible experience, which makes the user want to go on to the next high as soon as possible. As with all addictions, the addict’s solution to the distress caused by the substance is to use more of the substance.
The physical and psychological side-effects of tik are devastating. On an immediate, day-to-day level, holding down a job or, more likely, concentrating on school work becomes virtually impossible. Paranoia and anxiety are common among tik users. Over time, they may become delusional or even psychotic. A tremor that is similar to Parkinson’s disease may also set in. In the case of a very large dose, a minor stroke may result. On the physical side, the user’s teeth are damaged, they lose weight significantly, they may develop skin conditions, and there is an elevated risk of having a heart attack. Not good.
Using this information, however, we can aim at a positive outcome. If you notice any of these warning signs in someone you know, the time to act is now. Tik can cause a rapid decline in the health of the user, so your intervention may prove decisive. When faced with a crisis of this magnitude, it is easy to resign oneself to the situation. But you don’t have to do that. Change starts now, and it can start with you.