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What is ‘Sugars’? Narcotic Drug Mix Containing Heroin

‘Sugars’ is the street name of a popular drug in South Africa which is a heroin-derivative where heroin is mixed with small amounts of residual cocaine. It is then used together with other drugs like cannabis (marijuana, dagga) or inhaled on its own. The drug mix is cut with other substances that give it bulk and may make the effects more potent – the most common of these bulking agents being rat poison. Like tik (crystal meth) it has become a popular drug among teens and it is highly addictive with a poor rate of recovery.



Sugars Availability and Price

Sugars sells for R10 to R30 (approximately $2 to $4) for a ‘loop’ or ‘straw’ and the price varies depending on the potency of the drug.  The drug came to light when it quickly grew in popularity in suburb known as Chatsworth that lies south of Durban. The sugars addiction fueled the crime in this area, particularly the sex trade among teens, and posed a problem on a scale only seen with the tik explosion in the Cape Town townships and suburbs. Sugars is available across South Africa and is known by a number of other street names including “ungah”, “nyaope” and “pinch”.

Sugars Ingredients and Use

The exact makeup of sugars may vary among dealers. The base of the drug is heroin, which is then mixed with rat poison, bicarbonate soda and even teething powders. A dealer may add cocaine or even cannabis to give the drug user a heightened experience. By diluting the narcotic drugs with other common and cheap substances, drug dealers can peddle sugars at a very affordable price making it one of the cheaper drugs on the streets.

Most sugars dealers build their customer base by offering the drug for free to teens at parties and other social gatherings. As it is often reported, it only take two ‘hits’ of sugars to become addicted. This may vary among individuals. Sugars is heated on piece of tin foil where it releases vapours that is inhaled with a straw or some other short pipe. Once inhaled, it quickly enters the blood stream where it travels to the brain and triggers the release of certain ‘feel good’ hormones.

The user will experience a euphoria – a ‘high’ marked by feeling very relaxed and intense pleasure that some describe as an orgasm. These effects of sugars are short lived and once the levels of these ‘feel good’ brain hormones drops, the user will feel depressed and agitated. With sugars, many users report excruciating pain throughout the body once the effects of the drug wears off. As with any drug, the individual’s tolerance increases with time – meaning that the user will need to use larger amounts of the drug to induce the same effect for a set period of time.

Sugars Addiction – Signs and Symptoms

Sugars users report that the addiction is a painful experience – they often crave the drug to keep the pain at bay. Unsuspecting parents may initially not be aware of a child’s drug usage. Sugars addiction causes significant physical and behavioural changes just like any other substance abuse and addiction.

Some of the signs of sugars addiction includes :

  • Significant loss of weight.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Darkening around the eyes (circles).
  • Fine red pimple-like rash on the body.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Slurred speech, disorientation and poor coordination.
  • Aggression and mood swings.
  • Poor memory and inability to concentrate.
  • Preoccupation with certain groups of friends and activities to acquire money.
  • Theft within the home – missing money, electronic goods and other valuables.

Other signs and symptoms indicative of drug usage will be evident to a vigilant parent. Not all the signs and symptoms of sugars abuse will be evident at the same time. Any change in behaviour should alert the caregivers of the possibility of drug addiction.

Sugars Treatment and Drug Rehab

Rehabilitation requires a multi-discipline approach. A medical doctor, psychologist, social worker and drug counselor will have to work together to assist with the rehabilitation process. A new drug known as Subutex is used to counteract the withdrawal symptoms from opiates like heroin. The drug has been used with a significant degree of success but ultimately the successful rehabilitation of a sugars user depends on the desire to want to quit, good social support and staying away from those  involved with drug selling and use.