A lack of drug users available to participate in groundbreaking research into the affects of methamphetamine – more commonly known as tik – is hampering researchers’ efforts to ascertain the effects of the drug in a local context.The research conducted by the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Psychiatric Department aims to address the serious lack of local information on the effects of the drug and how addiction can best be treated.
But the research, which started in May and was expected to produce preliminary findings by December last year, has been sluggish largely due to a shortage of participants.
Researcher Dr Nyameka Matross said they needed participants who used tik as their only drug, but most users also abused other substances which would skew the data.
Matross said so far they had only managed to work with a quarter of the 100 participants they recquired.
She said they relied on referrals from drug treatment centres and were looking for younger people as participants as they were less likely to have abused more than one drug for an extended period of time.
The aim of the UCT study, for which data is being gathered at an evaluation clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital, aims to find out if the smoking of tik, as common in South Africa, has the same effects as taking the drug intravenously as is more common in the US where most of the research on tik has been conducted.
Furthermore, the research aimed to establish a profile of a tik addict and sophisticated tests on the drug’s neuropsychological impacts, and its effect on the brain, were being conducted.
Clinical psychologist at the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre (CTDCC) Cathy Karassellos said it would be very difficult for the researchers to find people who only abused tik because in most cases addicts also used either dagga or alcohol to come down from their high.
South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (Sanca) social worker Nicollette Kwalie said overcoming stigma was a further challenge for researchers.
She said recreational users were less likely to come forward because it would involve admitting their problem while chronic users would use any other substance that they could get until their next fix. – Yugendree Naidoo, West Cape News