Features

Prescription drug abuse: Pill-poppers on slipery slope

SAM MUKWAMU

The past decade has seen a rapid increase in global prescription drug abuse. The US has been going through an opioid epidemic, which has resulted in a recent surge in several counties in different states filing lawsuits against opioid-manufacturing pharmaceutical companies. The Australian and British governments have also made efforts to combat their own growing opioid issues, as the Australian government has made codeine-based medication only available to those with prescriptions, while the English government has ordered an investigation into the growing problem of addiction to prescription drugs such as painkillers, and medicines to treat anxiety and insomnia.

Mayo Clinic defines prescription drug abuse as “the use of a prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor”, these include taking a friend’s prescription painkillers for pain, and snorting, or injecting medication to get high. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include opioid painkillers, such as Oxycotin and Vicodin; anti-anxiety medication, such as Urbanol and Xanax; and stimulants, such as Concerta and Ritalin. Mayo clinic also says that those who abuse prescription medication may develop a tolerance to the medication, as their bodies become physically dependent on the drug and will require higher doses to experience the same effects. This dependence could lead to withdrawal symptoms if dosage is decreased or if drug use is stopped. Prescription medication abuse has also been a problem in South Africa. According to The South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drugs (Sacendu), the abuse of over-the-counter and prescription medication such as slimming tablets, analgesics and benzodiazepines has become more prevalent in South Africa. According to statistics compiled by Sacendu between January and June 2016‚ admissions to its centres for over-the-counter and prescription medication as a primary or secondary drug of abuse were 0.7% for Mpumalanga‚ 7.2% in the Eastern Cape‚ 1.7% for Gauteng‚ 1.5% in KwaZulu- Natal and 1.1% for the Free State‚ North West and Northern Cape. Sancedu also noted that during the same time period, 2.4% of patients across all their treatment centres reported having used codeine for non-medical purposes, with the majority coming from Gauteng.

According to Dr Bhoora of the UP Department of Family Medicine and the Community Oriented Substance Use Programme (COSUP), prescription drug abuse has been on the rise because people are now more aware of what drugs there are, as well as what they can do. Dr Bhoora further said “life stressors and the fast-paced society we live in also adds to the daily pressure. Once someone has used a drug that works, those factors make it easier to need more. It is also possible that the problem has always been around but we are only realizing the actual impact now.” Dr Bhoora believes that there are several reasons as to why people initially start using or abusing prescription drugs, such as it being more acceptable to use prescription drugs than street drugs in society, they can be covered by medical schemes, there is no real bodily danger in terms of accessing, compared to street drugs sold by dangerous dealers. Dr Bhoora also says that “a lot of people use prescription drugs for a real problem, for example after an injury, and become dependent as a result of this [...] Not everybody gets hooked, but there could be underlying issues.”

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UP contributes to cancer therapy

GEMMA GATTICCHI

Every year approximately 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer. This is usually seen as a death sentence to many, however, UP is working to bring hope to cancer patients. According to the National Cancer Institute, 8.2 million cancer-related deaths occur worldwide and the number of new cancer cases will rise to 22 million within the next two decades. WHO defines cancer as “the transformation of normal cells into tumour cells in a multistage process that generally progresses from a pre-cancerous lesion to a malignant tumour. These changes are the result of the interaction between a person's genetic factors and three categories of external agents, specifically, physical carcinogens, chemical carcinogens and biological carcinogens.”

UP has taken a ground-breaking step toward the cure in its innovative nuclear therapy research, conducted at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. It is being operated as a combined effort between two research bodies, namely, UP’s Department of Nuclear Medicine and the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC). The JRC is involved in a variety of projects and partners with many renowned scientists from all over the world. In collaboration with the Department of Nuclear Medicine, they are working towards furthering scientific knowledge on the subject of nuclear therapy to treat cancer. This partnership will allow the Department to treat advanced-stage prostate cancer patients using targeted alpha therapy (TAT).

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Perdebate: Do successful women intimidate men

Katherine Atkinson
The way our society functions is forever changing. The feminist movement has ensured that women of today enjoy many more rights than women from the past.  The 21st century has seen an emergence of women who dominate academia and the workplace. In fact, Huffington Post says that women have begun to surpass men in many spheres and that the female population has “more master’s and college degrees” and “better GPA’s” than the male population. Further, it is estimated that by 2025 “more than half the primary breadwinners in America will be women.” 

Despite this female emergence, patriarchy and misogyny can still be seen today. Newsweek reported that on International Women’s Day 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked women for their “beauty and tenderness”. He continued to say that “only women can create a welcoming atmosphere at work and at home, take care of our homes and children and be a moral example to them.” Since he is ranked as number one on Forbes’ The World’s Most Powerful People list, and is therefore very influential, Putin’s statements could contribute to shaping ideologies within society.
Kate Manne, a Cornell philosophy professor and author, describes misogyny as the “law enforcement branch or patriarchy” which “polices and punishes women who transgress or threaten dominant men”. Manne argues that misogynistic views are still observed today because men are intimidated by high-achieving women as these women challenge a man’s place in society. Since this is a contested and ongoing debate, Perdeby asked both students and lecturers at UP to see whether they think that high-achieving women intimidate men.

 

Tseleng Tshabalala (BA Visual Studies)
It honestly depends on the male individual because among many other things, socio-cultural context influences these perceptions. From what I have seen in my male peers is that they prefer the assertive woman which is the successful, business orientated woman and the reason is simple, as much as women want that from men they also want a woman who can hold her own. However, when [it] comes to romantic relationships they would prefer a woman who can balance both those spheres. Assertive people intimidate weak-minded, passive people regardless of sex

 

Nicholas De Decker (BA Law)
I believe that a man’s approach to women, their standing in society and the subsequent respect accorded to them is shaped by early exposure in life. Unlike many, my mother was able to attain a degree and perform the domestic tasks of raising children. I have therefore been heavily influenced by my mother and her competence and strive to embody this respect for her and other women in my actions. Sadly, [while] many men pay lip service to the concept of work-place equality, the reality places increased pressure on already limited job opportunities. Many are willing to entertain an isolated female presence, but not a flood. We must be careful though, as pitting a career driven woman against a domestic causes division amongst women themselves. Each side becomes defensive, in turn disempowering their life choice. There is no “better” it depends on the context, circumstance and personality of the woman. The most important criterion is competence, whether it is in raising a family, starting a business, climbing the corporate ladder or both.

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Competition or collaboration: group work woes

Mosa Mgabhi

Individual assessments are common in university, however, also of importance are group assessments as they can be a powerful and effective way to learn.

A guide written by Cynthia J. Brame and Rachel Biel for Vanderbilt University reveals that the use of cooperative learning groups is based on the principle of constructivism which rests upon the idea that “individuals learn through building their own knowledge, connecting new ideas and experiences to existing knowledge and experiences to form new or enhanced understanding”. The guide suggests that cooperative learning follows the notion that small groups are important because students can be heard and hear their peers.

There are various reasons in favour of group work; an infographic by Monash University titled “A guide to group and teamwork” lists the advantages of team work are that a team can produce much more comprehensive or complex work, individuals learn more when working with each other, and that team work “develops decision-making and problem solving skills, project management and organisational skills as well as conflict resolution skills”. However, it also highlights the disadvantages of group work as that “group members might have conflicting ideas or viewpoints and that they may not contribute equally”. The infographic recommends that students need to be patient, committed, conduct productive meetings and communicate well to achieve optimum results for their efforts.

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Land expropriation debate

Katherine Atkinson

On Tuesday 27 February, the majority of South Africa’s Members of Parliament voted in favour of amending the Constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation. The vote came after the EFF presented Parliament with a draft amendment and argued for an ad-hoc review committee to be set up by the National Assembly to initiate the process. The EFF argued that section 25 of the Constitution has made it impossible for those dispossessed of their land during the apartheid era to get justice. The Constitutional Review Committee will now “review and amend section 25 of the Constitution to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation”. According to News24, the National Assembly has given the Review Committee until 30 August to report back on its work. News24 reports that it is unclear whether the ANC will transfer all land to the state after expropriation, but if they adopt the EFF’s policy then this would be the case. However, the ANC’s conference declaration says that they intend on expropriating land without destabilising the agricultural sector, without endangering food security and without undermining economic growth, therefore, it seems that the ANC might “focus on specific pieces of land that will be used for land reform projects” reports News24.

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