According to eyewitness testimony from documentary filmmaker Tooli Nhlapo the hot new drug craze in South Africa is smoking crushed anti-retroviral pills with either a combination of painkillers or pot. Schoolchildren have been seen buying their supply from HIV patients and healthcare providers alike or even stealing them when necessary. Earlier reports suggest that patients figured this out a while ago.

Obviously there’s a lot of wrong here. In a country where getting the drugs for keeping HIV at bay is a difficult task reducing the supply can only make legitimate users suffer increased bureaucracy and higher costs. There’s also the fact that eliminating one drug of an anti-retroviral cocktail diminishes the intended effects while also creating the potential for future resistance to the drugs.

However, there’s a certain ingenuity I can appreciate. Unlike the tik smoking teens of the Cape Town Flats these Township youth have carved out their own swath of self-destruction. This isn’t complaining of back pain to some quack and getting a pot card, this is examining chemistry and taking the next logical step. This reminds me of friends I’ve had who could take cold medication and turn it into mental geometry and recite the psychotropic effects of solvent ingredients by heart.

It reminds me of when I was in highschool and going through a trying period of adolescence. Every morning I would wake up late for class, siphon a shot or two of gin from the handle in the kitchen and bag up a cocktail of Vivarin, antihistamines, NyQuil caplets and vitamins. I would blunder into class, swallow my pills with Pepsi and then usually pass out on the desk until the bell rang. It never really got me anywhere, but what I could have done with a little more thought and care.

Picture stolen from the cache of some parked website.
Thanks to discussion on HIV Skeptic for the Xinhua news piece and to io9 for once again opening my eyes.