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Researchers warn of new drug Wiz targeting South Africa’s youth

The Institute of Security Studies said the discovery of the illegal drug Wiz shows that new psychoactive substances are a reality in the country.


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The first incidences of the new drug, Wiz, emerged late February when it was reported that it was making the rounds in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Police reportedly only became aware of the drug when one of the schoolchildren collapsed at a Merebank school after smoking it.


What is Wiz?

Sam Pillay of the Anti-Drug Forum based in Chatsworth described Wiz as an amphetamine which is a central nervous system stimulant that is used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy, and obesity.

The drug comes in appealing packaging, usually with wording suggesting that the ingredients are “natural and organic”.

Aimed at teenagers and primarily schoolchildren, the drug’s low price makes it attractive to young people. The cost varies from R30 at tuck shops to R80 at a tobacco shop.

“Dealers are targeting school children which will not only bring adverse health effects, but also negatively impact young people’s education,” the ISS said.

Synthetic drugs (such as methamphetamines or Mandrax tablets) have long been available in South Africa, but there have been doubts as to whether new psychoactive substances were present in the country.

“Wiz proves that they are,” the ISS warned.

“While the category of new psychoactive substances that Wiz falls under still needs to be ascertained, it’s likely to be a synthetic cannabinoid similar to that discovered in Gauteng in 2018.”

In 2018 a marijuana-like drug was identified in Pretoria that was available over the counter. Forensic tests conducted on the product revealed that it was an illegal classified drug. Analysis of samples indicated the presence of a certain type of synthetic cannabinoid.

“However, synthetic cannabinoids can be up to 100 times more potent than THC and can result in severe side effects quite different from those of cannabis. These include a rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations,” pointed out Richard Chelin, Researcher, ENACT organised crime project, at the ISS in Pretoria.

“Little is known about the extent and scope of new psychoactive substances in South Africa. But the problem must be addressed sooner rather than later, given the growing trends of new psychoactive drugs worldwide,” said Chelin.