Selma Ikela and
Windhoek-The insatiable craving for a high has driven some drug users to start experimenting with the so-called “bluetooth” method of sharing a ‘drug high’ by using the blood of someone who is under the influence.
Bluetooth, named after the technology that connects different electronic devices wirelessly is commonly practiced in South Africa by nyaope addicts (nyaope or wunga is a street drug that has come into widespread use in South Africa since 2010).
It is used by addicts who on broke days cannot afford a fix, who then transfer the high by drawing and injecting the blood of another addict, who is on a buzz.
According to Cynthea Martin-Haihambo, who owns a private treatment centre, Hephzibah, the bluetooth technique is a relatively new trend amongst drug users in Namibia.
Martin-Haihambo learned about the method last month after several people sought counselling at the rehabilitation centre.
According to the South African media, the drug user mixes the drug with water and fills a syringe with it. At this point, the drug user had tied a string or elastic band around their wrist or arm and then injects the drug mixture into a vein.
The drug user immediately extracts his blood in the same syringe and passes on this syringe to his friend, who then injects the blood into his veins – and then goes into a daze.
She explained that so-called bluetooth is used by some street kids and poor people who don’t have an income but are addicted to drugs and can’t handle their narcotic cravings and withdrawals.
Asked to give a hint as why people would bluetooth their highs, Martin-Haihambo said substance abusers want to experiment with new drugs to get a higher high and remain there for longer, as well as peer pressure and battling to survive the economic situation, amongst others.
She could not specify how many people are using the controversial drug-sharing method.
“It’s like asking how many alcoholics we have in Namibia. But [bluetooth] is a new trend,” as drug users’ habits are changing, she remarked, adding that it’s comparable to some drug users who take drops of vodka in their eyeballs to get drunk quickly.
The most commonly injected blue tooth drug in Namibia is heroin, Haihambo-Martin said, but she added that cocaine and methamphetamines are also injected.
“Any water-soluble drug can be injected. Poor people mix any household items, such as Handy Andy or spirits, with a little water to increase the drugs,” she explained.
The drug is either injected into the muscle or under the skin, she explained. The intensity of “drug kick” ranges from person to person, but injecting it in the skin can cause it to kick in within 10-20 seconds. Generally the high lasts three to five hours,” said Haihambo-Martin.
Notably, she said Namibia is gradually developing from a transit drug country to a drug consuming country, “hence there is a need for preventative and educational measures.” She said the dangers needs to be highlighted in school and at community centres.
She feels that the answer to the problem is rehabilitation, control and counselling. She also said Namibia does not have drop-in centres, as in European countries, where drug-users can exchange old needles for new ones.
She further said substance abusers’ behaviour can range from lying, manipulation, frustration, mood swings, shifting blame, self-pity, stealing and strategising for their own benefit.
In addition, Martin-Haihambo stressed that any type of person can use Bluetooth, if they cannot afford a fix. “Even a chief executive officer can end up using street drugs if they can’t afford any other drugs,” she stressed.
Regrettably, these drug users are at risk of transmitting HIV and other diseases to each other, and, according to Health Minister Dr Bernard Haufiku, the use of bluetooth drug-sharing is bound to spread HIV massively.
He further said such blood transfusions between people increases the risk of contracting diseases, such Hepatitis A, B, C and HIV. Haufiku said although HIV is generally spread through sleeping with an infected person without protection, HIV is transmitted faster and effectively through blood transfusion.
Haufiku said there is a need to look if bluetooth contributes to new spikes of HIV infection among young people under the age of 40.
A police commissioner remarked off the cuff that the top brass of the Namibian police are aware of the new drug craze that could result in more HIV and other infections if it is not soon arrested.
The head of the Drug Law Enforcement Division, Deputy Commissioner Fabian Musweu also cautioned that bluetooth is an easy way for people to contract HIV.
“It is a dangerous thing. Our people must not even try, it’s dirty,” a concerned Musweu said, also noting that what happens in South Africa often tends to make its way to Namibia.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr Shaun Whittaker cautioned that the drug situation in the country is serious, adding that it has reached “crisis point”.
“Research shows that there is a definite link between traumatised people and drug abuse,” said Whittaker. To successfully address the “drug crisis”, Whittaker said, there is a need to address underlying social problems, such as structural violence and poverty.
“There is a need to build more rehabilitation centres in the country. In Mexico they build rehabilitation centres with the drug money that is confiscated,” said the clinical psychologist.