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 Saturday 15 December 2007
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SOUTH AFRICA: Albert Van Der Walt: "We weren't stupid, we were just heroin addicts"

Photo: BBC
Heroin is your wife, heroin is the love
WITBANK, 30 November 2007 (PlusNews) - Albert Van Der Walt is a 21-year-old former heroin addict from Witbank, in Mpumalanga, a largely rural province in South Africa's northeast, with a growing drug problem. Now clean for nearly three years, Van Der Walt told IRIN/PlusNews how heroin quickly took over his life.

"Myself and a friend went to Cape Town for a holiday and that's where it started, in the big city. It was New Year's - an intense, hectic time when everyone enjoys partying - and we met this guy who introduced us to it. We didn't hesitate because we were the type of people that liked to experience, that weren't scared of anything. Our first injection - it was amazing, it was truly unbelievable - it was heroin and it was the best you could find.

"I came back home and didn't think about it or talk about it, but then I met one of my older friends that found it [heroin] here [in Witbank] and then it clicked - once I knew I could get it here, I was gone.

"It was crazy, I was doing it three times a day, I was a drug addict. Heroin was definitely my choice of drug - it's the warmth, it made me feel comfortable, content. But when I didn't have it, I had big mood swings. I quit my job because of the heroin, I didn't want to work anymore I just wanted to be high and chilled.

"It cost R50 [US$7] a hit so it was missions everyday and it became our lives, but trust me we got it. I sold everything I had, twice. Cell phones - those were the easiest [to steal], people tend to lose concentration when it comes to cell phones. You meet new friends with more money, we even thought about stealing cars, and we were brought up not to steal.

"You can get needles anywhere. In Cape Town we actually picked them off shelves in supermarkets. Here, you need to go into a pharmacy, but they're cheap and easy to find. We tried to never share needles, but when push comes to shove and you don't have a needle and you don't want to smoke it because you know it's wasting it, what are you gonna do? But we talked about it first, we'd say, 'Listen man, do you have AIDS? How many chicks have you slept with?' It's a trust thing, and it was definitely never with someone I didn't know. We weren’t stupid, we were just heroin addicts.

"I didn't care about women when I was on heroin, and I don't think anyone does when they're on it. Heroin is your wife, heroin is the love because it gives you what you want. It makes you an introvert, it keeps you hidden away, which is why you don't see the drug addicts.

"After my parents found out, they kept me at home for three days and those were the worst because I was so used to being free and now all of a sudden I'm in a cell in my own house because they knew I would go buy. Then I went to a private rehab [drug treatment] centre in Kempton Park [a Johannesburg suburb], very good but the security was lazy. I was supposed to stay there for four weeks, but I relapsed after three. This other kid went over the wall and brought back a lot of drugs. Obviously I didn't say no. I had to leave, that was it, but then I saw my mother's face and I felt so bad, I never did it again.

"This was two years and nine months ago. It ruined my life twice, I'm not going to let it happen a third time. Now I work at [a music store] and I play guitar. I don't see any of my old friends, I don't even go to nightclubs anymore, I'd rather sit at home and have a beer with my brothers."


Theme(s): (IRIN) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), (IRIN) Prevention - PlusNews, (IRIN) PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews, (IRIN) Urban Risk, (IRIN) Youth - PlusNews


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.