South Africa has one of the planet's most unique drug cultures. It is a realm where the quaalude still abounds and heroin has emerged only recently not in its familiar guise as an intravenously administered powder but as a component in a mysterious smoking mixture called "the nyaope."
The drug efavirenz was first approved by the FDA in 1998 and has since become a vital component of the antiretroviral drug cocktails that are used to treat HIV internationally. Although prescription drug abuse is not uncommon this was the first time Hamilton has heard of an antiretroviral drug being used recreationally and the suggestion that it behaved like a classical psychedelic further kindled the fires of his obsession.
And so he traveled to South Africa to find out what role, if any, efavirenz plays in the nyaope cocktail and what effect it might have on the recreational user. Venturing into the township Soweto, he met with the local group willing to share their expertise on drug acquisition and consumption. As he entered the den he could smell the remnants of heroin, methamphetamine, methcathinone, methaqualone and cannabis. He went into the home of nyaope users to see the process of how nyaope is formulated, all the different components that go into the mixture, and maybe even watch some people ingesting it.
Since the 1960's reports of street drugs laced with the rat poison strychnine have been perpetuated by the popular media. Most of these claims are false but when Hamilton read that an analytical chemist in Durban had detected strychnine in a nyaope sample he decided to pay him a visit. Under the cover of night they went to obtain a fresh nyaope sample from a recent drug bust. With fresh nyaope at hand they returned to the laboratory to look for the presence of strychnine or efavirenz.