The dangerous drug:

Crystal Methamphetamine, known locally as “Tik,” has become the “burden” and “shame” family members of drug users have to bear.

Symptoms of use: typically include increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, hypervigilance, arousal, restlessness, aggression and violent behaviour, sleeplessness and reduced appetite.

It’s a scourge that has crippled primarily poorer communities in the country, especially in the Western Cape.

You can identify “tik” users immediately by their “emaciated” frames, their broken teeth and the “glassy look” (high) in their eyes. They resemble the zombies we see in futuristic movies.

Tik is highly addictive, and most families affected by this will tell you that things have changed since drugs entered their homes.

There is the hypervigilance of watching your stuff because everything that can be sold for money is stolen by the drug addict. People have started using plastic taps to combat the theft of metal taps, stolen and sold for a “buck.”

Whilst the effects of tik are dangerous to the user, not many people talk about how the family has changed since the addiction.

The family dynamics have changed:

All families and friends of drug addicts have changed, yet so little is spoken about it.

There is the hiding of goods that can be stolen.

The anxiety of keeping monies close to you to stop them from being stolen to buy drugs.

The mood changes the moment the drug addict enters the household.

The often unreasonable demands, lies and blackmail that drug addicts use to manipulate family members to give them money to buy drugs.

The sleepless nights, wandering, worrying about whether the family member will return home safely.

The countless tears, prayers, arguments, and conversations had with the tik user, hoping that something resonates with them.

The anxiety and depression that you, as a parent or family, endure because you feel “responsible.” 

Then there are the “forbidden” thoughts late at night as you lie alone in your bed. The “thoughts” of “wishing” the drug user would die so you can be free from the turmoil.

The guilt accompanying these thoughts is intense mental and emotional anguish because such “evil” “thoughts” are often not shared with others.

The truth:

The tik user or drug addict is not the same person you knew before drugs took over. Imagine that it’s as if an alien invaded their body and decided to stay there.

The drug user feels powerless against the addiction, and in quiet moments, wishes they could wake up one day and be free.

The truth is unless you force-fed them the drug, it is not your fault. 

If you did all you could to provide a stable, loving environment for your child, and they became addicted to drugs, it’s choices they make.  Often those choices are made in the spur of the moment, influenced by peer pressure or the desire to forget whatever is ailing them.

Poverty plays a huge role in the increase of tik users, and lack of education in understanding the harmful and highly addictive effects of drugs is another factor.

Too often, we have conversations with children about the drug problem without going deeper and understanding socio-economic factors and feelings of inadequacy. We tend to “gloss over” how life-changing this can be.

The time is now for us to have conversations about the reality surrounding us, including the difficulty in staying drug-free once they use it.

Tikking is a time bomb waiting to explode. There is no “shame” in having an addict in the family. Perhaps if we spoke about it in candid conversations, we could realize that we are not alone: that “tik” is a global problem that needs a multi-faceted approach to achieve success.