On a new high?

Drug central

On a new high?

Delhi recently witnessed its biggest catch of contraband drugs till date – a consignment of ephedrine totalling 370 kg and estimating a staggering Rs 125 crore. Though small batches of drugs – varying from herointo hashish and cocaine - are caught in the Capital every few days, this time, officials are not so much alarmed over the catch, but the drug itself.

Over the past few months, a substance called Amphetamine Type Stimulant (ATS) is emerging as the choice of narcotic among drug seekers in Delhi. It is passed on by the fancy names of ecstasy, base and speed in drug party circles. The primary material needed to synthesise it is ephedrine and its variant pseudoephedrine.

In the year 2011, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) seized 250 kg of pseudoephedrine. In 2012, it rose to 380 kgs. This year, within the first three months itself, NCB has nabbed no less than 1500 kgs of the substance. Though it was found in batches leading up to Assam and Manipur, the chain started from Delhi.

AK Jaiswal, Deputy Director General, Headquarters, NCB informs Metrolife, “Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are indeed arising as one of the most important substances to make drugs. The reason for their becoming a preferred drug raw material is firstly, their easy availability. Unlike hashish and cocaine, which are banned, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are legitimately produced and used in making medicines.”

“They are manufactured by licensed pharmaceutical companies in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. From here, they are illegally routed to Delhi and sent to the North-east and Myanmar to be processed by laboratories into narcotic ATS. They are then circulated back in Delhi and other parts of the
country.”
Another important reason for ATS’s new popularity is its cheap price. A tablet of ephedrine medicine costs just one rupee, but when a kilo of ephedrine lands in the illegal market it becomes worth one lakh rupees. Heroin, on the other hand, is priced at one crore per kg and cocaine, the costliest, at Rs 3 crore per kg. No doubt, ATS provides a cheap but strong high.
Dr Satish Koul, senior consultant, internal medicine with Columbia Asia hospital, Palam Vihar, says, “Ephedrine and its variants usually go into making medications for cold and cough, bronchodilators and nasal decongesters. But if they are abused, they can lead to tremours, jittery behaviour, lack of sleep and in extreme cases, heart attack.”
“Cases of Ephedrine misuse are not uncommon. Of course, patients don’t tell us right away what they have been taking, but once we start questioning them, they reveal drug use. Other than use in parties, we have also come across cases of call centre employees and professionals who do night shifts taking such things. It helps them keep awake and attentive all through the night.”
NCB officials also point towards the large number of foreigners and students in Delhi as a cause for ATS’s widening use. Both are always on the lookout for new stimulants – substances which can be safely procured, are low on money and provide ‘relaxation.’ An easy way to hell.

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