CAT is not a kitten – It’s a dangerous drug that took Emily on a dark path

NEWCASTLE – It took but one moment to lead Emily* on a dark path – a path that endangered her two-year-old daughter’s life and caused her husband to commit suicide.

Emily was addicted to methcathinone (CAT), an addiction she picked up while studying to become a teacher at the University of Pretoria.

“While studying, I met the man who would become my first love and we spoke about everything. One of the things we spoke about was drugs. I told him I would like to try just once to see what it was like and what the hype was about.”

In September 2012, the moment came when she had the opportunity to experiment.

“We have just had a major fight and he left me for a few minutes before coming back with a bag of white stuff. He told me I should try it, and if I did, we would both be a lot calmer and be able to resolve our issues,” Emily recalled.

That was the moment her life took a turn for the worse. She started taking CAT whenever she and her boyfriend went out to party.

“It keeps you awake and we took it to enjoy our nights out. It then turned into taking it every weekend, and soon I was taking it every day.”

Emily paid R250 for every small bag of CAT.

“The thing is, I was taking four bags like that a day, and because my salary could not afford my habit, I started stealing from friends and family.”

She left her boyfriend and started dating his best friend in 2014. The two married and Emily fell pregnant.

During her pregnancy, she managed to stay clean, but she quickly reverted to her old ways after her daughter was born.

One of the reasons she apparently started taking drugs again, was to deal with her grandmother’s death.

“I loved my gran and when she died, I just could not cope. The thing about CAT is when you use it, you don’t feel a thing, which is what I wanted. The thing is, I didn’t care about anything else.”

This lackadaisical attitude put her daughter’s life in danger.

“I remember going out to a veld at 3am in the morning with my daughter, who was two at the time, to buy drugs. Anything could have happened to her if things had gone bad during the deal,” she said.

While she and her husband both abused drugs, the day arrived when Emily realised she needed help.

“My husband started hitting me. At first I thought it was because of the drugs, as it was only whenever we hit a downer he would hit me. But the beatings got worse and I decided I needed to go home, tell my parents everything and get clean.”

Emily said this was one of the most embarrassing things she ever had to do.

“It is not nice having to go to your parents and telling them you are addicted to drugs; it feels like you have let them down and are a burden.”

Yet, she managed to do it.

Despite her parents’ wholehearted support, Emily soon succumbed to the lure of drugs again.

While living with her parents, Emily stole from them a few times to support her habit. This all changed when she realised how much her drug habit was affecting her daughter.

She tried to become sober again.

“My parents took me to SANCA where a woman evaluated me and suggested I go to rehab. My parents sent me to Houghton House in Johannesburg, where I spent two months. During this time, my husband, who was still on drugs, shot and killed himself. He had bipolar and the drugs affected him severely as it caused paranoia and aggression.”

Sober, but reeling from her husband’s death, Emily decided the time had finally come to remain sober, not just for herself, but for her daughter as well.

“I have an addictive personality, which is why I need to stay clean. If I had to go to my old dealer now and ask him for CAT, I know I would not have to pay for the first time as he knew what a good customer I was.”

This knowledge has convinced Emily to leave town.

“My old dealer followed me the other day, asking me if I wanted drugs. I can’t afford to stay in town if he has taken to following me; my daughter’s life comes first now.”

As she prepares to leave town, Emily warns parents to remain vigilant regarding their children’s behaviour.

“There is not much to do in this town for children, which is why so many do drugs. As parents, you need to see who your child is mixing with and become aware of changes in their appearance.”

Emily said one of her big giveaways was that she lost a lot of weight.

“I was literally skin and bones, and my parents noticed immediately.”

She urges families not to shy away or be embarrassed about a loved one’s addiction.

“A lot of people are too scared to take a loved one to meetings such Narcotics Anonymous, as they are scared someone will recognise them. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Drug addiction does not discriminate against anyone; it doesn’t matter whether you are white, black, orange, Christian, Hindu or what. I come from a well-to-do Christian family and I know how easy it is to fall in the trap of drugs.”

One of the biggest problems faced in Newcastle, according to Emily, is the lack of support groups for addicts.

“No one understands an addict like another addict, and this town needs support groups for users who want to come clean. I have been sober for nine months now, but every day is constant battle; after all, I did drugs for five years and the cravings won’t just go away.”

Emily encourages drug abusers to get help as soon as possible.

“When you are on drugs, your whole life is one big lie. You lie about everything to everyone, you lie for a small bag of drugs and it is simply not worth it.”

*Emily – not her real name.

Quinton Boucher

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