Methamphetamine Use on the Rise in India

By Victoria Kim 08/01/14

Loopholes in the law and corruption among officials has led to a staggering increase in meth production and abuse.

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The rise in methamphetamine use and production in India has local authorities up in arms, as the “emerging fad” has surfaced in Mumbai over the past 18 to 24 months, according to staff at the rehab center in Mumbai’s Masina Hospital.

Meth seizures across Asia have tripled in five years to record levels. Use and production in India have increased with the country’s expanding economy, serving a country of 1.2 billion people with a youthful population and rising disposable incomes. Once the working man’s drug, often used to help stay awake during long shifts, meth has become increasingly popular in the youth party culture, with most users being in their early twenties.

India has traditionally been a “transhipment” country for the drug rather than one with consumption problems, according to Pushpita Das, Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. But local clandestine use and production have increased.

“It’s very much a local product,” said chief Himanshu Roy of Mumbai’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS). “It’s a new age drug, it’s easy to manufacture, the ingredients are available.”

Experts blame the country’s taste for the drug on loopholes, collusion, and corruption in the country’s giant chemical industry. India has one of the world’s largest chemical industries, and is a major source of key meth ingredients ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which are both legally used in medication like decongestants.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, India is the most cited origin country of illicit shipments of precursor drugs destined for meth labs abroad including Myanmar, and as far as Central America and Africa. Anyone can purchase pharmaceutical products containing ephedrine over the counter in India. “You can’t restrict these chemicals because they’re essential for legal use,” said Vijay Kumar, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) deputy director general in Mumbai.

According to the experts, meth’s ingredients are both produced illegally in India as well as procured from legal sources in the chemical industry. Regulations designed to prevent this are nullified by lack of enforcement, according to Romesh Bhattacharji, a member of the Institute for Narcotics Studies and Analysis in New Delhi.

To counteract this emerging “scourge,” ATS has taken up a “war footing” against the drug. “We would just sit and keep doing it,” a 19-year-old undergraduate student in recovery told AFP. He began taking the drug with friends at college last year and was soon snorting up to 40 lines in a single sitting. “It made me feel powerful.”

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