Crystal methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant, is giving sleepless nights to anti-drug authorities in the city. The contraband, which was once sold on par with cocaine, is seeing a sharp rise in demand from young junkies, thanks to its easy availability and falling prices.
According to psychiatrists and enforcement officials, crystal meth drug abuse has increased by 80% in past three months.
Shrinks say about ten meth addicts approach them for treatment daily. Enforcement agencies have not been able to crack down on its trade as meth is classified as a Schedule 2 drug under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and its ingredients are legal and easily available.
Describing the worrying trend, clinical psychiatrist Harish Shetty said, "I am treating more crystal meth abuse cases than hash and weed addicts. It is rampantly available in the streets, mostly used by the youth. The drug produces the same effect as cocaine and the prices have come down in the last few months. What was available for Rs3,000 a gram is now available for as Rs800."
Yusuf Matcheswalla, senior psychiatrist from JJ Hospital, said the substance can be easily prepared in a laboratory. "Among the youth, it is regarded as some wonder drug that enables them to cope and function. The use is excessive and the effect is damaging," he said.
Emphasising curb on preparation and sale of meth, Dr Bharat Shah from Lilavati Hospital said he gets new cases every day. "It is a cheap drug whose effect is the same as cocaine or even worse. It will wreak havoc on the lives of youngsters," said the psychiatrist. Meth is usually smoked in glass pipes or snorted.
The enforcement agencies say they can't do much due to policy constraints. Himanshu Roy, chief of Anti Terrorism Squad, who has been keeping a tab on meth abuse, said, "We have sent a proposal to the Centre to include the drug in Schedule 1 of the NDPS Act. Once that is done, we can do major crackdowns."
The officer said manufacturers, sellers and consumers of the drug operate with impunity as the law is not stringent. Since its ingredients are legal and available everywhere, there is no restriction in its preparation. Roy said, "All this is making it very popular. We have a gameplan which we will put in action once the law is amended."
Life's math gone awry
The odourless drug has a long-lasting euphoric effect on the user and has psychological impact that can make a person excited, aggressive and violent. The drug can also enable rapid weight loss and wreak havoc on one's life over time. "Parents come to us after seeing the behaviour of the youth changing. The users become increasingly aggressive and lose the sense of responsibility. The sense of euphoria lasts more than 12 hours," says Harish Shetty.