With summer approaching, music festivals in Cape Town have become a common occurrence over weekends. What very few parents know is that when they allow their kids, however old they may be to go to these festivals, their children might be exposed to more than just music. Humans are by nature curious and youth especially see high risk behaviour as a new form of entertainment.
Rameez Douglas (not real name) was only 17 years old when he became addicted to drugs. Dagga was the first drug he experienced.
Marijuana is seen as the gateway drug, but many people who use it do not see it as a drug at all, but more of a slight high, something that they think is not addictive.
“I only realised that I had a drug problem when I was taken into hospital and was told by my doctors that I could have died,” Douglas explained.
Douglas was introduced to the world of drugs by music festivals that he used to frequent with his friends over the weekend.
“I was a curious kid and eager to try new things I did not like the restrictions I had at home so going to festivals was an escape for me,” he revealed.
At the age of 18 years old, Nasreen Karriem (not her real name), discovered a world of electronic trance music. When coupled with mind-altering substances, she describes it as something “out of this world”. Karriem was introduced to what is known as ‘magic mushrooms’, a mushroom that has a powerful psychedelic effect on the user when consumed.
“I got hooked on other stuff too…heroin, cocaine and of course dagga. Nothing was off limits,” she says.
Kathy Karrasellos, a clinical psychologist working at the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre says that for most youth, access to buying drugs is very easy.
“Drugs are sometimes available on school property as some of the kids at schools would be dealing in drugs or would be drug mules,” Karrasellos explained.
Music festivals are also a lure for youth who are looking to experiment with drugs as these are readily available at places such as concerts and festivals.
“Youth see it as part of the fun to be using drugs at a concert like that.”
These concerts and festivals are thus seen as a danger zone because youth attending are unsupervised and are old enough to make informative decisions.
“A big draw card is the fact that youth want to experiment with drugs because it’s part of a phase and they may leave it and move on. But a small percentage will get hooked on it and will develop quite serious addictions,” Karrasellos continued.
Douglas, for instance, did not see the toll that his addiction was making on his life and his weekends were consumed with being able to get his next fix. For youth it is easy to find drugs at big parties. Douglas says that his friends always knew someone who was willing to supply them with drugs like LSD (Acid), MDMA and magic mushrooms.
The reality is that at these parties there are networks of people in operation. Someone will always know another individual who will supply drugs even though they know that this addiction is harmful.
“Festivals are a perfect place to find drugs, it is an open environment and there are no police offices,” Douglas added.
But the thrill of manic trance parties and the false sense of ‘happiness’ induced by drugs also came at a huge cost, a financial one. For Aqeel Abrahams (not his real name), constant spending on drugs and parties would run into thousands of rands every weekend.
“It was a case of searching for the next party. Most of the times, these big parties are held in remote places, on farms and open fields. In the end, if you count the money you spend on buying your ticket, the drugs, petrol to get there, it costs a lot,” he says.
“I ended up borrowing money from a lot of people and sometimes, stole from my own parents. It’s something I’m not proud of. But alhamdullilah, I’m done with that lifestyle.”
Parents who are wholly unaware that their children might be indulging in this form of behaviour should have a closer look at their children’s activities.
After a complete breakdown, Douglas was hospitalised for his addiction and is now a recovering addict still trying to get his life in order.
To seek help for any addiction, contact the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre. There are branches in Observatory, Mitchell’s Plain and Atlantis. VOC (Umarah Hartley)