Methamphetamine - Tik

by Voice-Out

 ‘....The crimes you'll commit for my narcotic charms, will be worth the pleasure you'll feel in your arms (your lungs, and your nose). You'll lie to your mother; you'll steal from your dad. When you see their tears, you should feel sad. But you'll forget your morals and how you were raised. I'll be your conscience; I'll teach you my ways. I take kids from parents, and parents from kids. I turn people from God, and separate friends. I'll take everything from you, your looks and your pride; I'll be with you always − right by your side. You'll give up everything − your family, your home, your friends, your money, then you'll be alone. I'll take and take, till you have nothing more to give. When I'm finished with you, you'll be lucky to live. If you try me be warned − this is no game. If given the chance, I'll drive you insane. I'll ravish your body, I'll control your mind, I'll own you completely; your soul will be mine....’ ‘My Name Is TIK’ (Poem written by a Tik addict)

by Voice-Out

Short introduction

Methamphetamine, referred to as the ‘devil’s drug’, is an extremely dangerous and addictive psychoactive substance. Although approved pharmaceutical forms of methamphetamine are prescribed to treat certain medical conditions in children and adults, the illicit form of methamphetamine is taking the world by storm, and its abuse is increasing rapidly. An illegal form of methamphetamine is known as ‘crystal meth’, ‘meth’ or ‘ice’. ‘Crystal meth’ is more commonly known in South Africa as ‘tik’ or ‘tuk-tuk’. ‘Crystal meth’ or ‘tik’ is manufactured in hidden, illegal laboratories known as ‘tik labs’. During August 2006, IOL News reported that 90 percent of ‘tik labs’ were situated in Gauteng, and that these kinds of labs are capable of producing about 2 kg of ‘tik’ and cat each week. Two kilograms of ‘tik’ has a street value of about R600,000. During the period 2003 to 2006, 166 labs were dismantled by the police.

In 2013 police are warning schools about new drug called ‘Strawberry Quick; which is a type of crystal meth that sizzles and pops in your mouth (like the candy) and smells of strawberry. This is being distributed in schoolyards and if ingested can make children incredibly ill or cause death. Not only that, it also comes in other flavours such as chocolate, peanut butter, cola, cherry, grape and orange. All the more reason for children NOT to accept ‘sweets’ from strangers.

The science

Methamphetamine can be found in many forms: an odourless bitter powder, solid crystal or rock-like forms which are clear, pink, brown, white or yellow in colour (depending on the chemicals used), and also in tablet or capsule forms.

The volatile solvents used for manufacturing ‘tik’ are extremely poisonous, corrosive, and highly flammable. They are especially lethal to the human body, and can result in sudden death if inhaled, or may burn away human tissue if they come into contact with the skin or internal organs. Tik ‘cooks’ present the highest risk of suffering burns or internal organ damage from chemical exposure. ‘Tik labs’ give off lethal fumes that increase the risk of explosions or fires. Dangerous chemical fumes can ignite due to overheating caused by a lack of ventilation in these ‘labs’.

Some of the volatile solvents include:

  • Sodium hydroxide (highly corrosive chemical found in drain cleaners)
  • Anhydrous ammonia (used in chemical fertilisers)
  • Iodine (toxic to the body if taken in large amounts)
  • Red phosphorus (highly flammable substance)
  • Ephedrine (a highly addictive, controlled substance in South Africa since 2003)
  • Pseudoephedrine (found in some over-the-counter medicines)
  • Ether (highly flammable substance)
  • Brake Fluid (highly corrosive and flammable substance)
  • Lighter Fluid (highly flammable substance that can cause sudden death if inhaled)
  • Hydrochloric acid (highly corrosive liquid)
  • Battery acid (highly corrosive liquid)
  • Acetone (highly flammable liquid)
  • Paint thinners (emits toxic fumes).


Tik’ is sold in ‘straws’ that cost the user between R40 and R60.

Methods of use

Methamphetamine can be taken orally, smoked, injected or snorted. Methamphetamine dependence is one of the most difficult to cure. Crystal meth is usually smoked by placing the drug inside a light-bulb, heating the light bulb with a lighter, and then inhaling the fumes. ‘The Western Cape currently has the highest abuse rates of ‘tik’ in South Africa and it’s commonly abused by children.

Effects on the user

The high of the ‘tik’ lasts two to sixteen hours, and depends on the amount taken − unlike the high experienced by crack cocaine, which only lasts up to 15 minutes. Effects include:

  • An increase in energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Intense feelings of pleasure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Great strength
  • Increased confidence.

Tolerance develops very quickly, and the user will need increased doses of the drug to have the same effect. Frequent use quickly results in extreme physical and psychological dependence.

Harmful side effects and health risks

Adverse effects include:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Severe tooth decay and loss of teeth (a condition called ‘meth mouth’)
  • Liver, kidney, lung and cardiovascular damage.
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Vivid hallucinations
  • Suspiciousness
  • Mental confusion
  • Aggression
  • A sensation of insects crawling on the skin
  • Panic
  • Violent behaviour
  • Homicidal and suicidal tendencies
  • Hostile or dangerous behaviour caused by intense cravings
  • Serious blood-borne infections such as HIV/AIDS caused by contaminated needle-sharing amongst addicts
  • Tweaking (described next).

Over 20 percent of dependent methamphetamine users develop a long-lasting psychosis similar to that of schizophrenia, even long after stopping use.
‘Tweaking’ is an episode suffered by a user who has not slept for three to fifteen days. This is usually experienced after days of ‘tik’ binging. The user will have uncontrolled cravings for more of the drug, but becomes unable to experience the initial effects of the drug. This causes extremely unstable and paranoid behaviour, leading to incidents of family violence, violent crime, and motor vehicle accidents. If other substances such as alcohol are also used, they can make the ‘tik’ user extremely dangerous. Caution should be exercised when dealing with a person intoxicated with ‘tik’.


Withdrawal symptoms appear within a few days or even a few months from last use. Symptoms can also last for weeks or months depending on the frequency and amount of drug used. Indications include:

  • Fatigue
  • Severe depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Agitation
  • Hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
  • Increased appetite.

Methamphetamine withdrawal is an agonising and difficult experience. Psychological cravings are extremely intense and overwhelming, and may cause a person to relapse. It is estimated that only seven percent of dependent methamphetamine users fully recover from their addiction. A methamphetamine addict should never attempt withdrawal without seeking professional medical assistance.

Overdose potential

There is a great risk of overdose associated with methamphetamine use, but it is impossible to say what amount can result in an overdose. An irregular cardiac and breathing rate and a rise in blood pressure and body temperature increase the risk of suffering respiratory failure, a heart attack, coma and/or death.

Methamphetamine and the law

Methamphetamine is an illegal substance in South Africa, controlled under the Drug and Drug Trafficking Act 140 of 1992. The manufacturing, dealing, use and/or possession of Methamphetamine are unlawful. A person convicted of an offence under this Act could face a serious fine or even imprisonment.

Street Names

Tik | Crystal Meth | Meth | Ice | Glass | Tuk-tuk | Globes | Straws | Strawberry Quick
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