Not just marijuana, here are other drugs you should be aware of

  • Deekshita Baruah, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 27, 2015 00:01 IST

In India, substance abuse is on the rise and more and more people have started experimenting with drugs. While some are introduced to drugs at parties, others experiment out of sheer curiosity and get trapped into this deadly world.

Indians got to know about the date rape drugs, which made regular rounds at bars, pubs and discotheques, last year. Date rape drugs, which include Rohypnol, Ketamine and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), have been used to spike people's drinks to incapacitate and render them vulnerable to sexual assault.

Teenagers in Mumbai are known to have got addicted to the innocuous street drug Meow Meow (Mephedrone). Also used as an anaesthetic, this party drug which started making news worldwide five years ago slipped into the Indian party scene in 2014.

On International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, here are a few other drugs that you need to be aware of and keep away from.

* Speed
Speed, also known as billy and whizz, is the street name for drugs based on amphetamine. It is usually an off-white or pink powder that is dabbed onto gums, snorted or swallowed in paper.

Dr Ashutosh Shukla, director and HOD of the department of medicine at Delhi's Artemis Hospitals, says, "Taking speed can be dangerous for the heart, as it can cause high blood pressure and heart attacks. It can be riskier if mixed with alcohol, or if used by people with blood pressure or heart problems."

* OTC products and cough syrup
Over the Counter products including muscle relaxants, anti-histamines and antispasmodics are commonly misused. Some of these drugs can be crushed and inhaled and also mixed with drinks to knockout victims.

Then, there is the notorious syrup too.

Dr Amitabh Parti, senior consultant and unit head of internal medicine at Delhi's Fortis Memorial Research Institute, says, "People tend to contaminate common aerated drinks or energy drinks with cough syrups. When mixed with beverages, it results in a lethal cocktail."

* Hypnotic or soporific drugs
Dr Sameer Malhotra, director of mental health and behavioural sciences at New Delhi's Max Hospital, says, "Hypnotic or soporific drugs, commonly known as sleeping pills, are a class of psychoactive drugs whose primary function is to induce sleep and to be used in the treatment of insomnia (sleeplessness), or surgical anesthesia."

It is often found that offenders use this drug to inebriate the victim and sexually assault her. Anti-anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines, a class of psychoactive drugs, whose core chemical structure is the fusion of a benzene ring and a diazepine ring, are also used to spike drinks.

* Page 3 drugs
If you are in the Page 3 circle, beware of diuretic drugs (urine producing agent). It is commonly used prior to a photo shoot or during a party in order to dehydrate the body, so that you look slimmer than before in real life and in photos.

* Anti-psychotic drugs
Prescribed anti-psychotics, like barbiturates, have been found to have intoxicating effects and can inebriate the person causing temporary short term memory loss (amnesia). The surprise element of the drug is its ability to dissolve and contaminate food and drinks without altering its taste.

* Pain-relievers
As evident from Bollywood films, pain relievers are crushed and mixed with drinks and used as a form of intoxication to render the a person unconscious.

Dr Parti says, "Pain relievers like opioids and codeine-based metabolites, stimulants like amphetamines and their derivatives, which are medically prescribed for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders), are commonly misused."

* Recreational drugs
The most common forms of recreational drugs are cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.

* Cannabis
Commonly known as marijuana, its regular use can be harmful in the long run.

Dr Parti says, "Marijuana, including synthetic marijuana or spice in colloquial terms, is a growing menace among school students these days. This drug can cause mental health problems such as schizophrenia. Its regular use can affect your concentration power and learning abilities. Mixing it with tobacco can increase the risk of heart disease and lung cancer."

It also has a negative effect on your fertility and can increase your risk of asthma.

* Cocaine
Also known as coke and crack, it is one of the most misused drugs in party circuits.

Dr Shukla says, "If you take cocaine, it is possible to die of an overdose from overstimulating the heart and nervous system. It's particularly risky if you have high blood pressure or already have a heart condition."

He further adds, "If you're pregnant, cocaine can harm your baby and even cause miscarriage. If you've had previous mental health problems, it can increase the chance of these returning."

Snorting on a regular basis can damage the cartilage of your nose over time. Also, if you inject it you are at higher risk of dying due to an overdose and your veins and body tissues can be seriously damaged. If you share needles, you put yourself at risk of catching HIV or hepatitis.

* Ecstasy
It is a psychedelic stimulant drug usually sold as tablets, but it's sometimes dabbed on to gums or snorted in its powder form. It's also known as MDMA or crystal.

Long-term use has been linked with memory problems, depression and anxiety. It's use affects the body's temperature control and can lead to dangerous overheating and dehydration.

* Opiod pharmaceuticals and heroin
The consumption of opium and heroin is the highest in Punjab and according to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) the state has registered 50% of the total drug abuse-related cases in the country.

Too much consumption of opium can lead to hallucinations, anxiety, depression, insomnia, faster heartbeat, nightmare, seizure and slurred speech. In extreme cases, it can also lead to coma.

Then, there is the classic case of heroin.

Thirty five-year-old Sumit (name changed) was a heroin addict and kicked the habit after his marriage with the help of his wife.

Sumit confessed to experiencing depression, insomnia, loss of appetite, dental problems, wearing of muscles and the immune system and resorting to unfair means like stealing money from people to get hold of heroin for his regular consumption.

Prolonged use of heroin can result in infection of the blood vessels and heart valves, tuberculosis, arthritis and AIDS.

Ink whiteners, shoe polish and opiod pharmaceuticals

Sniffing whiteners, like Erase X, cobbler's glue and shoe polish, are hugely popular among the poor and students with limited access to money. It's their quick-fix drug.

Next come injecting prescription opioid pharmaceuticals, such as buprenorphine, pentazocine and propoxyphene, which are illegally sold by chemists at 5 to 10 times the marked price, depending on the available supply and desperation of the addict.

Prolonged use of these drugs can result in hallucinations and depressed respiration resulting in a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can have long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma and permanent brain damage.


Common drugs can harm too
Sedatives, the drugs which are prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety and induce sleep, can cause dependence. Side effects include
depression, thoughts of self-injury, anxiety, aggression, restlessness, hallucinations and loss of personality.

Long term usage of painkillers can damage your kidneys. Cough syrups can cause high blood pressure and instigate heart illnesses. They can also cause chronic constipation.

Rules for party
To protect yourself while at a party always make your own drink. If you are in a bar, never take your eyes off the bartender while he/she is making your drink. And last but not the least never leave your drink attended, even if you are with your best friend, and if you return, always discard it and make a fresh one.

-- With inputs from Dr Satish Koul, consultant, Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospitals, Gurgaon

The author tweets as @deekshitabaruah

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