Visakhapatnam: Synthetic drugs, a new headache for the municipal police
Recent municipal police drug seizures have revealed the growing use and trafficking of synthetic drugs, which was unheard of until about three years ago.
In April 2019, a surprised town woke up to news of a drug bust at a private resort in Rushikonda where police discovered exotic narcotics such as MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), LSD and crystal meth, which until then were confined only to metropolitan cities.
Although there were rumors that rave parties were held at private farms, this was the first time that the City Task Force (CTF) of the Visakhapatnam city police had caught hawkers and users in flagrante delicto during their raid. It revealed the dark underbelly of the city’s drug world. Many new things even for the city police, such as supplying drugs through the dark web and buying them using Bitcoin, had come to the fore and many prominent figures were questioned or arrested in this case.
Then there was a brief lull, but since December 2021, city police and the CTF have staged at least six drug busts, including four this year alone.
An alarming aspect of drug seizures is the age and profile of users and peddlers, police say.
In Wednesday’s raid, the three users who turned into peddlers were B. Tech students between the ages of 19 and 21. Also in the previous cases, the users who were captured were of the same age group or were young skilled professionals. .
In the Isukathota murder case that took place on Monday, the deceased was just 16 and an intermediate freshman. He was a drug addict and the five suspects who allegedly killed him were all minors in conflict with the law.
This is a dangerous trend and we must confront it on a war footing, said Police Commissioner Ch. Srikanth.
The profiles of drug users reflect a representative sample of society. On the one hand, there are those who are accustomed to low-end, cheap drugs like ganja (marijuana), Fortwin painkiller injections, cough syrups or inhalers like ink whiteners, paints or liquid fasteners. And on the other, there are people who are addicted to expensive synthetic stuff like cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine. Police officers say synthetic drug addiction seems to be the new game in town for those who can afford it.
A common trait of both profiles appears to be that users are slowly turning into peddlers in order to fund their addiction, Deputy Commissioner of Police (CTF) Trinadh Rao said.
This attitude can turn them into long-term criminals, said Indian Psychiatric Society President Prof. NN Raju.
In all the cases that have been arrested so far, the users who have become peddlers have contacts with drug traffickers in Goa, Bengaluru or Hyderabad.
Many of their touchpoints are party planners or people connected to resorts and pubs. The latter source drugs through them using various modes of transportation and payment systems, including the dark web, courier services, and the use of Bitcoin or other forms of digital currency.
It is also seen that peddlers from Hyderabad or other big cities come to Visakhapatnam, harvest ganja and send synthetic drugs in exchange.
“We have already stepped up surveillance at all strategic points including colleges and hostels and the CTF which was set up to deal with narcotics has been empowered to deal with it,” Commissioner Ch. Srikanth said. .
“But at the same time, apart from law enforcement, parents and those in charge of running educational institutions need to keep an eye on their wards. If there are behavioral changes, they should consult psychiatrists or seek help from the police,” he added.
Drawing inspiration from the Commissioner of Police, Professor NN Raju said there was a need for a multi-pronged approach and that parents and teachers should play an important role in tackling the threat.