A New Type of Pain Killer in South Africa

What do you do when life becomes so distressing and coping mechanisms begin to fail? Teenagers in South Africa are experimenting with anti-retroviral drugs as a way to escape their realities. These drugs are designed to treat HIV/AIDS by boosting patients' immune systems and suppress the virus. Across the country, teenagers—even those who do not have the virus—are using the drugs for a hallucinogenic escape from reality. The pills are crushed to a powder then mixed with either painkillers or marijuana and then smoked. In a country that has endured social, political, and economic turmoil these teenagers are using to "relax and forget about their problems," according to BBC. The drugs are being sold by patients and healthcare workers, and are being stolen by users. Those with the virus are exposing themselves to potentially harmful side-effects by using the drug improperly. And those without HIV/AIDS are putting themselves in harm by using the drug at all. Beyond health concerns, this trend poses broader social and educational isues that will warrant a collective action from the South African government.

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