Last updated on Jan 19th, 2021 at 10:37 am

Each year around a thousand young women addicted to crystal methamphetamine, or tik, give birth to so-called tik babies in Cape Town.

â??I started smoking [heroine, dagga and tik] while I was 16 years old,â? said Meggan Adams from the Cape Flats while filling her glass pipe with more of the white tik crystals. She is six-and-a-half-months pregnant with her second child.

â??There were times, after I smoked, that I could feel the child being like hyperactive in my tummyâ? 

â??With my first child I was smoking five packets [of tik] a day â?? one packet just wasn’t enough for me,â? Meggan said. â??There were times, after I smoked, that I could feel the child being like hyperactive in my tummy.â? 

Meggan has been living on the streets of Cape Town since she was a child, and prefers to sleep out on the street. She doesnâ??t like spending time at home and would rather roam around, begging for money to buy food.

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â??Iâ??m very worried about her on the streets….â? said Megganâ??s mother, Amiena, who often comes to town to meet with her and to get some money from her to help support Megganâ??s five-year old son.

Alecia (not her real name), another heavily pregnant young woman from Bishop Lavis on the Cape Flats, told how she started smoking tik at the age of 18 after seeing her friends do it. â??I smoked with them, and ever since then Iâ??m smoking,â? she said while lighting up a tik pipe. Throughout her pregnancy she smoked up to three bags of tik a day and in mid June gave birth to a baby boy called Clintono. 

At the age of only six weeks baby Clintino died of unknown causes

â??I donâ??t know what happened,â? said Alecia. â??The Friday he was still okay, but Saturday when I woke up he was blue in the face… I miss him a lot… .â?

According to Professor Johan Smith, head of the Neonatal Unit at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, it is estimated that around 200 000 people in the Western Cape use tik, and many of them are pregnant women.

Babies born to heavy tik-using mothers may suffer acute symptoms of withdrawal

â??These babies are very agitated and irritable, they cry a lot, and they may have seizures,â? said Smith.  Between 500 and 1 000 babies are born to tik-using mothers in the Western Cape each year.

According to Smith, tik reduces the size of the region of the brain essential for learning and memory

Dr Kirsty Donald of the Red Cross Childrenâ??s Hospital in Cape Town conducted a study into the effects of crystal meth on children.

â??We followed up a group of neonates [new-born infants] whose mothers had reported tik abuse in pregnancy and we looked at their behaviour and developmental outcomes between two and four years of age,â? Donald explained. â??What was very clear from the results is that children who are exposed to methamphetamine definitely have behavioural and certain developmental problems compared to controls who come from the same communities.â? …

“These learners have a lot of unprovoked anger”

â??Every year there are children in my class who cannot cope with the work because they come from grade 1 but cannot read,â? said Theresa Abrahams, a grade-2 teacher at a school in Eastridge, Mitchells Plain.

â??What I picked up recently at many schools, that these learners have a lot of unprovoked anger,â? said Faizel Cottle, a learning support advisor. â??So there are different symptoms, and it is very closely related to FAS [foetal alcohol syndrome].â?

â??We are very worried about the scourge of drug abuse on the Cape Flats,â? said Albert Fritz, Provincial Minister of Social Development for the Western Cape. â??Two years ago we had only about four treatment centres in the province. We now have 24 treatment centres… .â? said Fritz. Despite these successes, he admits that there is a need for more preventative work.

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