27 April 2010
By Jayanta Gupta
Jha can’t remember when he first set eyes on the lethal tablets that came in coffee, vanilla and orange flavours. A friend promised they were safe and would help him to concentrate better. Before long, he was hooked. Initially, he managed to stay awake for longer hours. His craving for food stopped and his sexual urge increased, much to the annoyance of his girlfriend.
In the next couple of months, Jha’s dose had increased from two tablets a day to six. He wanted to be at an all time high. The moment the effect wore off, he would slip into depression and long hours of sleep. The young techie had inadvertently ventured into the lethal world of the madness drug Yaba. The first to start failing were his eyesight and hearing. Gradually, he began losing control on the use of his limbs. From a healthy youth weighing 72 kg, he had turned to a 53 kg wreck.
Yaba hit the party circuit in the metros sometime in 2008–09 and rapidly made inroads to the IT and other sectors where youngsters were on the lookout for more ‘hours’ in which to work and party. There is also some demand from students of professional courses. Users are hardly ever aware that the drug kills faster than heroin or cocaine and can destroy a human body within a year.
Experts say Yaba – a combination of 30% methamphetamine and caffeine – was first introduced during World War II to keep Hitler’s troops awake. It is now produced in large quantities in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and travels to Bangladesh and Myanmar. The tablets then enter India through West Bengal and the Northeastern states. In Kolkata, they sell for anything between Rs 200–300 a tablet, depending on supply. Narcotics Control Bureau officials say that it is very difficult to keep checks as the tablets are passed off as medicine by carriers.
“We are getting young people from the IT sector who are addicted to such substances. There are also some ‘over the counter’ drugs that are being used to prolong energy. Youngsters are taking up to 20–30 of these in a day. Finally, they reach a stage when they turn into ‘vegetables’ and are not fit to do any work. This addiction is extremely difficult to get rid of. The urge to achieve more has reached such levels that even students of well–known schools in Kolkata are sniffing glue. This gives them an instant high but leads to severe complications, including cancer,” Amit Bose of the Mukti Rehabilitation Centre.
“The most horrifying fact is that addicts become irrational and have no control on their behaviour. I saw a child at Sealdah station slip under the wheels of a moving train and then climb onto the platform as if in a trance, holding his severed left arm in his right,” said Bose.
IT sector employees admitted that ‘performance enhancing’ drugs are doing the rounds in a big way. “We know that many of our colleagues are into drugs. I know some people who stopped coming to office altogether. There were rumours that some of them had to be admitted to rehabilitation centres,” said Subhojit Basu, a BPO employee.
Physicians say that Yaba increases the heart rate and pumps up blood pressure resulting in the rupture of blood vessels in the brain. Addicts can suffer strokes, hypothermia convulsions and can also die.
“Such material give youngsters ‘artificial speed’. The number of people from good backgrounds has gone up manifold. We are regularly getting addicts from the IT sector, professional colleges and good schools. This is a sort of illness and the manifestation can occur at any point of time,” said Subhasis Nath, of Bhalobasha, a rehabilitation centre in Behala.