Who We Are

LET’S TALK ABOUT DRUGS AND STOP THE HARM.
In July 2018, a group of 5 young men who are part of an Opioid Substitution Therapy Programme in Durban came together to do write their own stories and the stories of a friend. This initiative was co-ordinated by Prof. Mark Hunter from Toronto University and Prof. Monique Marks from the Durban University of Technology (DUT). The goal of this project was to provide these young men with research skills which would allow them to tell the story of their own personal histories of drug use. They also conducted an oral history interview with a friend or peer who is or has been an active drug user. Mark Hunter’s role was to conduct the training required for the project to take place. Training and other aspects of the project were covered by ethical clearance from the Durban University of Technology. The conducting of the actual interviews and auto-ethnographies was facilitated by a team from the Urban Futures Centre at DUT, as was the website design.
These five young men are all advocates of harm reduction. For them being part of an OST Programme had provided them with hope and with the tools to normalise their life. Prior to this, their experiences with abstinence based interventions had been unsuccessful. Why is this the case? OST medication, in this case methadone, provided these young men with a platform for normalising their lives as they did not have to worry about the pain and discomfort of withdrawal from heroin, nor how they were going to cope with radically reducing their drug use, or abstaining, post the withdrawal period. The programme they were part of lasted for 18 months. During this time they were part of a medically supervised Methadone Demonstration Programme, run jointly by the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology and an NGO, TB HIV Care.
By the time this website project was conducted, the five young men had been on the OST Demonstration Programme for about 1 year. They were able to reflect on their own journeys into drug use, and also on their pathways to ‘recovery’. Each of the journeys are different – some catalysed by serious trauma and disconnect, and others by the influence of friends in resource-poor community settings. For each of them, though, having access to OST medication fundamentally improved the quality of their lives. This is critically important as OST treatment is not publically available in South Africa. OST medications are still not on the Essential Drug List, and the legal framework is still largely prohibitionist and punitive when it comes to drug use.
This website provides a platform for these five men to showcase their talents, and to tell their stories. It is our hope that other people who identify as people who use drugs, or who have been part of harm reduction programmes will add their stories to the website. The goal here is to talk about drugs and to stop the harm. Through talking, we help others to understand but we also create connections and through connections we forge healing. The more people who share their positive stories about their experiences of harm reduction interventions, the more we are able to advocate for availability of such interventions in South Africa
Welcome to this website. Let’s talk about drugs! Feel free to share stories, videos, and publications on this website.