Alprazolam, a drug used to treat anxiety disorders, seems to be the new big in-thing in the narcotics trade, according to officials who have seized massive amount of the drug in Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh recently.
“You get the same kick as you get from opium and its derivatives at a far lesser cost,” is how Deepak Dube, Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN) Indore superintendent, summed it up.
“It is a multi-crore trade and has been going on for at least the last couple of years,” Varun Kapoor, ADGP, narcotics wing of Madhya Pradesh police, said.
He explained that a packet of 15 tablets could be bought for around `35 with prescription, while in the black market, it costs around Rs 100.
Compare that with heroin, which costs about Rs 500 for a shot or Rs 20 lakh per kg in Malwa and around Rs 2.5 crore in the international market.
The price is a major attraction, Dube asserted.
Moreover, the destruction of vast swathes of opium crop in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in last year’s unseasonal rains has given it an edge.
The drug is regulated under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, a law regulating or banning psychotropic drugs, and its use without prescription is an offence.
CBN officials said that criminals in the region have been found to take a tablet along with liquor before committing a crime while others snort or inject the powder like heroin.
Sources maintain that Malwa has always been a hub of illegal opium trade in and its derivatives, as around 75% of the legal opium production takes place in Malwa’s Ratlam, Mandsaur and Neemuch districts.
But this is the first time that such a large seizure of the pharmaceutical drug has taken place in the region.
Over 2.7 lakh tablets and more than 14 kg powder of the drug was seized by the CBN and the MP police from various places in the region over the last two months.
Nine persons were arrested in the five cases registered.
CBN Indore arrested a woman with 700 grams of alprazolam powder. Based on her confession, two persons, from Mandsaur district, were arrested. However, the uncle of one of the accused Dilip Patidar, who had procured the powder, died in jail.
In the case registered by the CBN Kota, which was done in Shyamgarh, the probe came to a dead end after the accused from whom 13.6 kg of alprazomal powder and 1 kg heroin was seized, committed suicide in CBN custody.
In the three cases probed by the narcotics wing of the MP police, one consignment came from Ahmedabad-based pharmaceutical company Cadila, while two others came from Ridley Life Sciences, Ghaziabad.
“Our investigations showed that records in both Cadila and Ridley Life Sciences were proper and the records of the C&F agents were also proper. We suspect that the pilferage has taken place at the wholesale or retail level,” Kapoor said, adding that investigations are still on.
CHEAP BUT DEADLY
The low-price factor is a major lure for those addicted to Alprazolam
Alprazolam: Rs 35 for packet of 15 sells for Rs 100 in black market
Heroin: Rs 300-500 per packet (usually one tenth of one gram) depending on the quality
Alprazolam power: 14.3 kg
Alprazolam tablets: 2.72 lakh tablets