Agencies see dangerous shift in narcotic drug use pattern in Ernakulam

The near disappearance of Nitrazepam tablets, a psychotropic drug prescribed for treating ailments like anxiety and insomnia, after being the chosen drug among substance abusers till three years ago coinciding with the surge in MDMA, a premium recreational drug, is suggestive of the dangerous shift in the drug use pattern in the district, say enforcement agencies and health professionals alike.

A Schedule F1 prescription drug under the Benzodiazepine category of drugs, the seizure of Nitrazepam tablets rose from a mere 48 tablets in 2014 before it breached the 1,000-mark and rose to 1,414 tablets in 2017 followed by a marginal drop to 1,167 in 2018 and then hit an all time high of 2,622 in 2019.

The steep decline to 242 in 2020, a slight uptick to 514 in 2021 and a meagre 39 tablets so far this year, however, coincided with the progressive surge in the seizure of MDMA from 600.72 g to a massive 6,581.39 g and 2,138.46 g respectively.

“This is a dangerous trend as MDMA is far too addictive and harmful than Nitrazepam tablets. The premium status attached to MDMA and greater effect seem to be an allure to the youngsters,” said P.V. Aleyas, Deputy Excise Commissioner, Ernakulam.

While about 40 or more Nitrazepam tablets qualified as medium quantity and entailed imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of ₹3 lakh, just over half a gram brought as much punishment in the case of MDMA.

Faris Basheer, medical officer of Vimukthi deaddiction centre in Muvattupuzha, observed a clear swing from depressant drugs like Nitrazepam to stimulative drugs like MDMA. “After sustained use of depressant drugs where one is in perpetual inertia, the substance abusers feel for some action and thus turn to drugs like MDMA. The misplaced notions like better academic performance and sexual experience on using it further serve as an incentive. There are also the ones who go for the dangerous cocktail of both,” he said.

The decline in the circulation of Nitrazepam tablets also tell a tale of effective enforcement with the cooperation of the stakeholders. While peddlers used to smuggle in Nitrazepam tablets in boxes of hundred strips at negligible price from the neighbouring State and sold them for a fortune here, the more desperate users tried to get them from across the counters by showing forged prescriptions.

That’s when the medical shops started to check the veracity of the prescriptions strictly on the directions of the Excise department and the drugs controller. “When that created nasty quarrels, we simply started claiming that stock wasn’t available. While the forged prescriptions had unusually large volumes of Nitrazepam, doctors hardly ever prescribed as much and that too separately but always with other medications. That also helped us detect the forged prescriptions,” said A.N. Mohan, State president, All Kerala Chemists and Druggists Association.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2022 9:02:49 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/agencies-see-dangerous-shift-in-narcotic-drug-use-pattern-in-ernakulam/article65523754.ece