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How Loftus ‘Liefling’ Derick Hougaard became ‘a pill addict’ – reports

The world was his oyster until the unimaginable happened – a series of injuries forced one of South Africa’s most loved rugby legends to retire from the game that gave him purpose in life.

Former South African flyhalf, and ‘Liefling van Loftus’, Derick Hougaard had South Africans very concerned earlier this year when news broke of him having been rushed to a Pretoria hospital.

Hougaard spent three weeks in the Intensive Care Unit at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital battling respiratory pneumonia. The former rugby star was placed in a medically induced coma for 13 days. The doctors had given him a 50/50 chance of survival.

Two months after his health scare, Hougaard admitted on Jacaranda FM to consuming a variety of medications before his girlfriend, pop singer Nadiné found him unconscious at his home.

Speaking to The Drive with Rob & Roz, Hougaard said nothing sinister happened with the medication he took. He said he took the usual dose of medication but just didn’t wake up the next day.

The medications he regularly used included:

  • Dopaquel, which treats both anxiety and manic episodes
  • Trazodone, a strong anti-depressant that also doubles as a sleeping tablet.
  • Opioids, found in prescription pain medication, that was discovered in his bloodstream.

During the interview the former rugby star shared that the only ‘toxin’ doctors picked up in his blood was a sleeping tablet he used every now and again. He added that they didn’t even pick up the antidepressant called Trazodone, which he had been using for a long time in his blood. They only picked up opioids, which is pain medication.

ALSO READ: ‘I could have died’− Derick Hougaard speaks for the first time since waking from coma

But now, rugby writer Brendan Nel is about to publish a book revealing how severe Hougaard’s prescription medication addiction really was when his rugby career came to an abrupt end in 2015.

The book called Derick Hougaard: Die ware storie van die Liefling van Loftus is set to be released this month.

According to NB publishers’ website, the book reveals untold stories of Derick’s days on and off the pitch and how his confidants and friends tried curbing his addiction. 

‘It takes a man to ask for help’ – Derick Hougaard

In an excerpt from the book published by Netwerk24, Nel wrote how Hougaard told Huisgenoot during a 2019 interview that the end of his rugby career left a big void in his life.

“This is one of the biggest gaps in my life. I always knew rugby was my passion, yes. But you don’t realize how big a role it plays in your life until you lose it. You don’t realize how big a void it will cause when you are no longer actively involved in it.”

“It takes a man to ask for help, or to admit that you need help. There are ugly and difficult times behind me. Especially when I mixed the pills and booze. We weren’t taught exactly what its effects are…or exactly how dangerous something like that can be. You maybe drank your medication with one glass of wine, maybe two, but the consequences are always severe. But I’m okay now. I’m standing.”

According to the excerpt, Hougaard admitted he was very depressed after his injuries. which influenced his relationship with his now ex-wife, singer Karlien van Jaarsveld, before they were even married.

“I was depressed and in a deep, dark place because I could no longer live out my rugby dream. The side effects of the medicine and the knowledge that I would never play professionally again broke me.”

“I took strong pain pills every day, got injections, and became dependent on sleeping pills. I couldn’t cope. It felt like I was on the downhill road.”

In the book, one of Hougaard’s friends said in his head Derick was still on the Loftus pitch.

“But people are ashamed of him. I wish I could give him a few snot slaps and straighten him out.”

The same friend told Nel about a time when he and Derick were on their way to a meeting when Derick stopped at a pharmacy to get pain pills.

“Derick came out with a box of Tramacet, a schedule 5 pain pill and an opiate which is highly addictive if abused.”

The friend said they were on their way home in the afternoon when Derick wanted to stop again for pills. The box of Tramacet was apparently finished within a few hours.

Derick’s friend told Nel how concerned he was about him.

“I know Derick feels guilty that his marriage fell apart. Many guys tried to help him. I think everyone loves him. I think the difference is, everyone doesn’t feel sorry for him anymore. I think everyone wants him to stand up again. But I can’t see it. There will have to be a divine intervention. The guy needs to wake up.”

A doctor, who reportedly knows Hougaard well, agreed with the above statement telling the author addicts create their own reality.

“And only two things happen to them. Either they die or they hit rock bottom and change. If someone tries to change you it never works. That’s where Derick is.”

The book is set to be released on 20 October 2023.

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