South Africa has to put the brakes on the spread of tik
The Times Editorial: South Africa has just earned the dubious distinction of being one of the biggest players in the manufacture of tik, or methamphetamine.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime says the extremely addictive stimulant, which can cause depression and suicide, serious heart disease, psychosis and violent behaviour, is today the second-most widely used illicit drug in the world after dagga.
Crystallised methamphetamine was first synthesised by a Japanese pharmacologist in 1919, but it took many decades before it became widely used as a recreational drug.
Significant quantities of tik first surfaced in South Africa in about 2003 and Gauteng quickly emerged as a major manufacturing hub.
Since then illicit laboratories in the country have been churning out industrial quantities of the white, odourless powder - which is often laced with potentially lethal solvents and other chemicals - both for export and the Western Cape, where its use threatens to reach pandemic proportions.
Communities in the province are being ravaged by the spread of the drug, which is destroying families and fuelling gangsterism and crime. Some anti-drug campaigners call for a special approach to the problem in the Western Cape because of the province's entrenched gang culture.
But tik abuse is fast spreading to provinces such as the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, particularly in some poorer outlying Johannesburg and Pretoria areas.
This is mainly because, in addition to being highly addictive, it is relatively cheap and easy to manufacture.
Unless decisive steps are taken now to curb the drug's manufacture and spread, vulnerable people in many of South Africa's poorer areas - already wracked by sky-high unemployment - could be exposed to it.
South Africa can also ill-afford a reputation as one of the world's drug capitals.