Beyond opioids and alcohol, young adults are turning to several crude options for a high. Smoking lizard parts and dung, known to possess psychoactive qualities is rampant in northern Nigeria. Sniffing glue, petrol, sewage and urine as inhalants has also become common. Hydrocarbons in petrol suppress the central nervous system to deliver effects similar to getting drunk while gas from the fermented sewage has attributes of a hallucinogenic and delivers a “euphoric high similar to ingesting cocaine.”
In South Africa, a successful public health response to HIV/AIDS has led to a drug craze fueled by state-administered anti-retroviral treatment. “Nyaope” is a cocktail of anti-retro viral drugs, low-grade heroin, marijuana and sometimes rat poison. Also known as whoonga or sugars, the cheap drug is rife in some of South Africa’s most improverished neighborhoods. “Tik,” as crystal methamphetamine is known in South Africa, has become popular delivering a high that can last up to eight hours Its effects, though, can last a lifetime as the stimulant is associated with brain and heart damage.
In neighboring Namibia and Botswana, drug abuse is also growing rapidly especially among young and unemployed. In Kenya, as as far back as 2009, a study showed that thousands of homeless street children were already addicted to sniffing glue.
The drug combinations may differ from country to country, but the symptoms are the same: a lack of opportunities for the so-called youth bulge. African governments are struggling to find a cure to both the the cause and the epidemic. Few have adequately staffed and equipped public rehabilitation centers or a coordinated public health response, never mind how to create jobs for Africa’s youth.