Whoonga is an addictive recreational drug that has come into use in South Africa, notably the impoverished townships of Durban. It seems to have been invented there. It is appearing in other places in South Africa as well.
Whoonga is a mixture of rat poison, powdered detergent and various anti-retroviral drugs. It is distributed as a fine white powder. Users add the powder to marijuana and smoke the mixture. However, AIDS experts claim there is no ingredient in the AIDS cocktail that can give whoonga users a high and that users are fooling themselves.
The drug is highly addictive. Project Whoonga, a charity devoted to combating the drug, reports that users feel heavy cravings even on the first day of use. It is also dangerous, because it reduces both heart and lung function. In overdose, heart and lung function reduction becomes fatal. Withdrawal symptoms reportedly involve both craving and pain, which are temporarily relieved by fresh doses of the drug.
The anti-retroviral drugs used to make whoonga are those distributed in the area to patients with HIV. The major sources of the anti-retrovirals appears to be robbery of HIV patients. There are media reports of HIV patients being mugged for their pills as they leave the clinics where they obtain them. Reports also indicate that some patients sell their HIV medications and that some corrupt health workers may be selling the anti-retrovirals illegally into the whoonga market.
The cost of the drug is reported to be about 20 rand, or three US dollars . However, reports indicate that a whoonga addict needs several doses a day, and users are typically too poor to afford the drug out of their legal income. Addicts therefore turn to crime to raise the money for their supply. There are reports that some whoonga addicts attempt to become HIV-positive, since anti-retrovirals are distributed to poor HIV patients free of charge.