The challenge that the project addresses
Alexandra has seen a dramatic increase in nyaope drug use, and this epidemic has not only affected addicts of the drug, but also their families and community as a whole. Nyaope is a heroin-based street drug which is exclusive to South Africa, and it is rumoured to be cut with household cleaning items, rodent poison, ARVs, marijuana, and methamphetamine. The rise of nyaope use in Alexandra has been undermining public wellbeing and security by expanding crime, disturbing HIV treatment delivery, instigating resistance to ARVs, and contributing to HIV hazard behaviours. Addressing this social challenge has been helping to reduce harm caused by drug use, and also improving emotional wellbeing and addressing social justice issues that are associated with drug use such as homelessness, ostracisation, family and community violence, physical and mental illness, and poverty.
What is your project doing to respond to this challenge?
We used the psychology value of Sense of Community to generate a community intervention with a Harm Reduction philosophy aimed at addressing drug addiction in Alexandra. Workshops have been developed for nyaope addicts, their families, recovering addicts and the community to explore and process their journeys with addiction and become empowered towards gaining control and skills to improve their lives. These workshops include topics on support and dissemination of information on addiction, as well as providing emotional awareness and skills necessary to tackle addiction, and empowering attendees to create social change within their communities. We aim to help to reduce the harms of social rejection and isolation, exploitation, and emotional and physical abuse associated with the journey of addiction through these workshops. There is community collaboration with an NGO called Vuka Skhokho as well as a church which provides food, social support, clothing for those battling addiction in the Zisize Project and in Alexandra as a whole.
Describe the project's impact
Members involved in the project have evaluated the initial implementation of the project, with some who have stated learning to prioritise their health and wellbeing. There was a visible change in hygiene practices as the weeks went by, with more of the attendees battling addiction appearing cleaner each week and a curiosity to improve their physical and mental health among the addicts. There is still a long way to go on the journey to rehabilitation, however there has been growing interest in building knowledge on reducing harm, coping, finding support, and developing their wellbeing and mental health which can play a significant role in their rehabilitation journey in future. There have been changes in understanding addiction, and family members have been feeling more motivated and encouraged to provide support to their loved ones battling addiction. The project is still in its infancy however with additional resources a greater impact can be made over time.