Coke makes way for meow meow, as drug peddlers chase a new high

‘When they don’t have cocaine, let them snort mephedrone.’ This has become the mantra for Nigerian drug peddlers across the city, who are getting a new high from peddling the poor man’s cocaine over the past few years.

Nigerian nationals, who run an established drug peddling cartel in the city, specialise in getting drugs from bigger, wider rackets that smuggle in narcotics from other countries and sell them locally. Part of their evolution in the business is to cater to popular demand for mephedrone, also known as M-Kat, MD and Meow Meow. Anti Narcotics Cell (ANC) officers said the increased availability of mephedrone, as well as its affordability as opposed to cocaine, has led to greater demand for the drug. Mephedrone is available at a starting price of ₹2,000 and a maximum of ₹4,000 per gram. Cocaine is sold for anything between ₹6,000 and ₹8,000 per gram.

“Mephedrone is known as the poor man’s cocaine, as it gives the same high but is more easily available. As opposed to cocaine, which is produced in South America and smuggled all over the world, mephedrone is manufactured illegally in the myriad pharmaceutical plants all over India and is hence easier to procure and peddle,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (ANC) Shivdeep Lande. It also has a wider consumer base, he said. Over the past five years, the ANC has seen an increasing number of cases where Nigerians are being arrested for possessing or peddling mephedrone.

‘Popular, easy to mix’

More than the price and availability, there are other reasons the drug is sought-after. The side effects of mephedrone, which include the ability to stay awake for as long as 12 hours and rapid weight loss, make it popular among college students as well as the model-starlet circuit. Even the ‘mixing’, the process of adding substances of similar colour and texture to a drug to dilute it and increase profits, is easier in case of mephedrone. Popular mixers for mephedrone include the food additive monosodium glutamate (commonly known as Ajinomoto) and paracetamol in powdered form, both of which can be easily procured, sources said. MD is mixed with cocaine as both have similar colour and texture. This means incurring an additional cost of securing MD to mix with cocaine.

ANC officers have also observed that Nigerian drug peddlers almost never consume the drugs they sell, in keeping with the age-old cartel adage: “Never get high on your own supply.”

“A major factor behind this principle is the cost. Smuggling cocaine is a difficult and lengthy process. According to a recent study, the consumer is the 18th or 20th link in the supply chain, and the cost of cocaine rises at each step. Consuming it instead of selling it is not a very sound decision in terms of profits. While mephedrone does not go through such a lengthy supply chain, the Nigerians still adhere to this principle, and mostly prefer to consume marijuana. We have even had cases where Nigerians have agreed to accept payment in marijuana in exchange for mephedrone in at least two instances last year,” an ANC officer said.

Testing delay

The biggest challenge, as reported by The Hindu in February, is that the ANC still does not have testing kits that certify the seized drug as mephedrone on the spot. The ANC has to send samples to the Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Kalina and wait for the results. In case the results are negative, the entire case is moot. Also, Nigerians are heftily built and resist arrest almost every time. It takes a large team of young and well-built police personnel to arrest them. There have been numerous instances of police officials being injured while trying to arrest them, the officer said.

The ANC, over the last three to four years, has stepped up its crackdown around known hotspots of Nigerian drug peddlers, which include coffee shops, malls, and popular nightlife spots in the western suburbs. It is also focusing on larger peddlers, who deal several 100 grams every day to better curb the sale of MD, he said.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 2:28:25 AM |

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