Curiosity about the drug has led to increased consumption of the highly stimulant drug
Law enforcement officials busted the first meth lab in Bangladesh in Dhaka’s Zigatola in 2018. Known as ‘Ice’ in Bangladesh, the dangerously addictive stimulant, despite its steep prices, has become fairly popular among the youth, which warrants the question: Is crystal meth going to replace its derivative yaba as the next drug of destruction?
Going by a slew of street names, including Meth, Crystal Meth, Ice, D Meth, and I Meth among its users, the lab-developed drug methamphetamine (a primary component in yaba) targets the central nervous system and produces an instantly elevated, euphoric effect that, according to experts, is much stronger than cocaine.
According to people familiar with the matter, it is often a case of curiosity which leads Bangladeshi youngsters to experiment with the highly addictive and expensive drug.
Law enforcers say that youths from affluent families have so far been the main consumers due to its high price point and to “bring about a change in their drug habits.”
The drug sells between Tk10,000 and Tk25,000 per gram, says Deputy Commissioner Mashiur Rahman of the Detective Branch for Gulshan Division.
Effects of meth
The nerve stimulant, according to users, is 20 times more powerful than yaba, which a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine. Yaba has already inundated Bangladesh with its low price and availability, but it seems that the purer crystal meth or ice is catching up.
Crystal meth generates tremendous stimulation in a short period of time after consumption. The drug can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected and while the effect is instant euphoria, the damage is lasting.
Apart from its highly addictive factor, prolonged use of the drug affects arteries, which can result in bleeding and cause serious damage to the heart, kidneys and liver.
Violence and an inclination towards unnatural sexual activities are also reported side effects along with rapid weight loss and aging in a short amount of time.
Cash and Curiosity
Shahriar Hasan (pseudonym), who stopped using the drug last year, claims that curiosity about the drug stemming from the popularity of American TV series “Breaking Bad” often leads youngsters to experiment with the dangerous drug.
According to him, there have been many who have returned from the brink of destruction after quitting but there are still a large number of users out there, many of whom have lost contact with their families.
“I have been using this drug on a regular basis since 2018, using the money my parents gave me for my semester fees,” he said.
He added that he quit yaba and stuck to meth when he discovered that it produced a much stronger “kick.”
Over the course of two years, he took money from his family in the name of semester fees, without informing them that he had quit studies, and continued fueling his addiction.
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“There was no place in my head for the realization that I needed to stop using crystal meth,” he said, adding that his family intervened when they realized what was going on and helped him overcome his addiction.
According to Mahmud Khan Nitto (pseudonym), a university student in Dhaka, a crew of up to ten people was formed to buy the drug for Tk 5,000-12,000 per gram, which was used for up to two days.
“I took the drug out of curiosity and it produced a much more elevated sensation than yaba,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
“The highly hallucinogenic drug has a severe impact on the mind which I have controlled not so easily,” he added.
According to him, some of his friends, who used to take LSD and DMT, also peddled meth by collecting it from wholesalers because availability was limited.
Meth availability might take the yaba route
In recent years, authorities intercepted as many as 11 consignments of crystal meth in Dhaka, Chittagong and Pirojpur, all of which reportedly came in from neighbouring Myanmar through yaba channels.
Law enforcers fear that if smuggling cannot be prevented now, meth may become as widespread as yaba.
“We are doing surveillance to track down the marketplace of this drug since a virtual market has lately emerged as a result of our crackdown,” says DC Mashiur.
According to him, the drug, which was being smuggled in through air mail or postal services from Malaysia and Thailand, has now started coming in through traditional drug routes.
He fears that it might lead to more availability and lowered prices which in turn might give rise to another drug pandemic in the country.
“Bangladeshi law enforcement and border guards lack the ability to protect the Naf River and can only catch a limited number of narcotics consignments,” he said.
Mashiur hoped that the trade of this hazardous narcotic, which is not something natural like cannabis and opium, but rather manufactured in a lab and is a synthetic item, would be placed under law enforcement supervision within three months.
Hopes of control, but available
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) spokesperson Commander Khandaker Al Moin said the force had discovered that the younger generation became drawn to meth use after watching the award-winning American TV series “Breaking Bad”.
“Leaders of society must step up to protect children from this dangerous substance,” he said, adding that parents played an equally vital role.
According to the official, youngsters can be brought back as long as drug use is detected at a lower level of consumption.
He expressed the fear that, with the increase in supply, the drug might become widely available and urged citizens to notify law enforcement agencies if they witnessed any suspicious activities or were aware of any drug trafficking.
Abdus Sabur Mondal, Director General (Additional Charges) at the Narcotics Control Department, said while some meth-related cases have been filed, they do not demonstrate the widespread availability of the drug.
"I can't give you the exact number of charges filed on crystal meth, but it's not a large number,” he said.
He hoped that meth trafficking would be reduced in a couple of months as the authorities were keeping an eye on the supply chain.
However, despite the crackdowns, meth remains available, according to users interviewed by Dhaka Tribune.