Wounds of war

Michele du Plessis

“I’ve seen a man with half a face, a woman with ulcerating, rotting legs, a young man with gangrene feet and sores so deep you can see the bones underneath the flesh…”

Shocking?  Perhaps. You may think these people have been to war. These type of wounds sound like wounds of war, where human flesh is cheap and disposable. In a way you are right, these are wounds of war. These graphically described wounds are caused by drugs. Synthetic drugs, created by so-called ‘chemists’ in backstreet laboratories. Amongst filth, empty codeine packets and used syringes. Created for people with vacant eyes and rotting flesh. This is a war: a war on drugs.

Krokodil, Russian Magic, Cheornaya, Himiya – an opioid derivative of codeine: sedative, analgesic, highly addictive, “but due to illicit, home-based, manufacturing, it may contain other unknown ingredients, or in fact, no desomorphine at all. Homemade versions of the drug start with codeine and can be ‘cooked’ similar to illicit methamphetamine (“meth”) production. Organic solvents such as gasoline, paint thinner, or lighter fluid, iodine, hydrochloric acid, and red phosphorus (from matches) are used in homemade synthesis. These dangerous chemicals are not always fully “cooked” out of the concoction when used to make illicit krokodil.”

The name ‘krokodil’ is attributed to the fact that when the drug is injected into the veins, it can cause severe skin ulcerations, infections and gangrene. Skin discolour from green to black, scales form that resembles the skin of a crocodile. It also refers to chlorocodide, a codeine derivative in the synthetic path to desomorphine. It is also called Russian magic, referring to the short duration of euphoria. Binge usage, lasting for days, is common as users try to keep the feeling of euphoria, diminishing the pain caused by the drug. This ultimately leads to death.

Flakka or bath salts is a new drug, only recently available in South Africa. “The first time flakka was found in South Africa was in November 2017 in Durban. As to date, no reports of flakka was received in Mpumalanga. The problem with the new generation of drugs is that the ‘chemists’ develop new derivatives continuously. It evolves relentlessly. The synthetic drugs change rapidly and we do not know what it does to humans and what the long-term effects are. Reports indicate that flakka is a central nervous system stimulant and has been reported to have the increasing potential for overdose,” a SAPS source said.

“Spice is another example. It is a synthetic cannabis – not a single drug but a range of laboratory-made chemicals that imitate the effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that is the main psychoactive element of cannabis. Spice produce a more intense effect for a longer time at a much lower dosage than natural cannabis. Drugs are illegal, but there will always be people who use them. We are waging a never-ending war against the chemists, the dealers, the users and the evolving drugs available today.”

There will always be a supply if there is a demand. Unfortunately, some get rich while others slowly kill themselves to satiate their addictions, their cravings. The slogan “We deliver!” of some drug dealers should actually be: “We deliver death to your doorstep…”

If you seek help for yourself or a loved one, please contact PRC Recovery Centre in Sabie on Tel no 081 246 7452 or e-mail

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