State hospitals reject detoxifying patients

MBOMBELA – Drug addicts who need to go through detoxification have no government hospitals available to them, a situation which is potentially endangering their lives. According to Sanca manager, Ms Marina Erasmus, all the government hospitals in the area refuse to take patients in for detoxification.
She explained that detoxification formed the basis of treatment, but it was dangerous to go cold turkey. Patients going through withdrawals of alcohol abuse especially have a high risk of dying if they do not detox in a controlled environment.

“It is also especially dangerous for those hooked on nyaope to go cold turkey,” Erasmus said.
Treatment cannot start while they are going through withdrawals. “We used to be able to take them to Themba Hospital but it is now also turning patients away. We had a meeting with them last week and it explained it has a backlog of patients because it also has to admit people from eMalahleni here,” she said.

For years Sanca was only able to send patients to Themba as the other government hospitals did not provide the service. Patients who cannot afford private care are now being left unattended.
Swartfontein Rehab Centre was recently upgraded, but still does not have a detoxification facility.
“It would help everyone if the rehab has a detox centre.”  A local recovering heroin addict told Lowvelder that he believed he would have died if he had gone cold turkey. He asked to remain anonymous, and has been clean for nine years.

By the time he sought help he was in Cape Town. His body had been destroyed by the drugs. “My whole face was full of sores. My skin in some parts was like a burned marshmallow,” he said.
The detoxification period was extremely painful. “Every part of my body was in pain. I could not sleep and I was constantly nauseous and the stomach cramps were excruciating. I could not walk for two weeks.”

The hospital where he was treated used methadone, which is opium-based, to gradually scale down the drugs in his body.  He has seen people die from going cold turkey.  “I know of one guy who went cold turkey and lived. I am not sure if my body would have been able to handle the physical withdrawal. I believe I would have died if I tried.” Erasmus said she had patients who had to postpone their treatment by two weeks so far, due to the unavailability of going through the detoxification process.
At the time of going to press, the Department of Health’s spokesman,

Mr Dumisani Malamule, had failed to answer the newspaper’s questions about refusing detoxification to patients.

Read more here: Drug crisis: Ticking time bomb

Tereasa Dias

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