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Medical experts call for intensified fight against crystal meth abuse

Data released by Tygerberg Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit indicates over 6% of pregnant women in WC abuse crystal meth.

FILE: Crystal Meth, also known as tik. Picture: theaac.co.za.

CAPE TOWN - Medical experts at Tygerberg Hospital have called for an intensified fight against crystal methamphetamine abuse.

Data released by the institution's neonatal intensive care unit indicates a minimum of 6% of pregnant women in the Western Cape abuse methamphetamine during pregnancy.

Doctors say this trend puts unnecessary pressure on the public health sector as methamphetamine abuse can be prevented.

Experts at Tygerberg Hospital say premature birth in the Western Cape ranges between 13 and 22% per annum.

They add that a major contributor to this is pregnant mothers being hooked on crystal methamphetamine.

Head of the new neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital Professor Johan Smith warns about the dangers of pregnant women abusing the drug, more commonly referred to as "meth" or "tik".

“Tik predisposes mothers to premature births and then all the big problems, such as physiological and anatomical developmental problems, which we see with premature births are likely to follow.”

Child and adolescent psychiatrist at Stellenbosch University Dr Anusha Lachman says programmes to curb this trend should be streamlined in order to have a significant impact.

“You can’t just address the addiction while not dealing with the poverty, the exposure to violence and the trauma which are factors as to why people abuse substances.”