And you thought Crack was whack


For years I have been intrigued with how drug addicts have improvised with prescription drugs in an attempt to get high without paying through the nose. Naturally I understand how some Colombian stumbled upon the coca plant and inadvertantly chewed on one of its leaves. Imagine his surprise when the plant’s magical powers were absorbed in his bloodstream…

Aye chihuahua! Cocaine was born.

But what sparks a person’s imagination to cook up ketamine, an anesthetic with a known side effect described as a dissociative anesthesea? It must have been a bright medical student who thought to burn off the liquid carrying HCL in order to snort up the powdery residue? I guess idle hands are in the devil’s workshop.

Over the years patients have confided that they’ve rifled through their mother’s purse in search of Valium or Xanax. (And to think I was looking for a cigarette back then.) I was shocked to learn that one patient stole his granny’s Parkinson’s medication in order to get high. Now that’s innovative.

Well here is the latest and it concerns a medication intended for the treatment of HIV.


In the townships of KwaZulu-Natal, Efavirenz, a drug intended to treat HIV/AIDS is  sweeping the townships of South Africa. Teenagers admitted to crushing and smoking this medication in order to achieve a cheap high. Efavirenz, the generic form of the brand name, Sustiva, has a known side effect which causes vivid dreams particularly in the first several weeks after initiating treatment. Some patients report a hallucinogenic effect with surreal, Salvador Dali like dreams.

South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world and KwaZulu-Natal province has the highest rate in South Africa — 40 percent.

The drug is so cheap and plentiful, thanks in part to a well-meaning effort by the American government to distribute ARV, a program that has helped extend the lives of more than 500,000 AIDS patients.

Today, some of the illegal drugs come from HIV patients selling their own medication for profit. Others are stolen from patients or pharmacies.

Now, South Africa may soon face a deadly consequence of ARV addiction. By smoking the drug, abusers are in effect giving HIV a small taste of anti-retroviral medication — not enough to kill the virus, but enough for it to potentially develop resistance to the drug.

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