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December 9, 2008

South African Teens Smoke HIV Meds to Get High

Continuing a recent trend of recreational use of antiretroviral (ARV) medication in South Africa, schoolchildren have been found mixing HIV drugs with marijuana or painkillers and smoking them, BBC News reports.

Reports suggest that the drugs are being sold by patients and health care staff in exchange for money.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked at first—these were school boys in their school uniforms,” documentary filmmaker Tooli Nhlapo told the BBC World Service’s Outlook. “When I asked them why they like doing it, they said it helps them relax and forget about their problems.”

According to the article, the medications are sought after for their hallucinogenic properties, and their abuse has become a national problem in South Africa. Health officials say a system in needed to track drug usage.

“We need pharmacists and good administrators, but again it is a social problem,” said Kas Kasongo, MD, who advises on an ARV drugs panel in South Africa. “I don’t think our role as doctors should be just to dish out drugs. We have to make sure the drugs are taken as recommended.”

Dr. Kasongo warns that those engaging in recreational abuse of these drugs are exposing themselves to the medication’s sometimes harmful side effects.

Search: recreational, marijuana, South Africa, antiretroviral

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