Tuesday, February 15, 2011

High Times: The Story Of Yaba

Yaba, a seemingly innocuous word that has robbed the sleep of law enforcement agencies in the country. This small pill, whose name means " madness drug", a potent mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine, and often spiked with trace amounts of heroine, is now the narcotic of choice for addicts, especially those in the age range 18-30 years, across Bangladesh. Police officers say that they have arrested a large number of people in the last 10 years – especially from the eastern parts of the country – for trading, supplying and using various drugs. However, these arrests have failed to check the spread of yaba. Sources said that drugs like yaba, opium, heroin, phensidyl, pethidine, cannabis, weed, bhang, arousal pills, viagra, various tranquilisers, diazepam, marijuana, hash and cocaine, are freely available in the country. It has been suspected that these drugs enter Bangladesh from neighbouring countries, with the help of a section of political leaders and law enforcement agency members. According to intelligence sources, at least 200 syndicates are active in the country that smuggle and trade in yaba pills. Intelligence agencies have already submitted reports, in this regard, to the home ministry. In their reports, 10 syndicates and 31 yaba peddlers had been identified, who are known to smuggle and supply yaba tablets to peddlers across the country. Most of these peddlers operate their businesses from the eastern part of Bangladesh, and they are also involved in arms smuggling, the reports say. They are also involved in women and child trafficking, a highly placed source of the home ministry told The Independent. After receiving specific inputs from intelligence agencies, the home ministry had already issued directives to law enforcement agencies, border guards and local administrations for taking necessary steps, Advocate Shamsul Haque Tuku, the state minister for home affairs, told The Independent. “We’re trying to arrest the drug dealers, ” he said. An intelligence officer, on conditions of anonymity, said that street chemists or small- scale drug producers have been trying to reproduce yaba in their own backyards, due to the popularity of the drug. He cited the example of a bright Bangladeshi student, Milhan (Not his real name), who became a yaba producer, within three years. “Milhan is only 23, and is now flush with money earned from producing the drug,” said the intelligence officer. Being a brilliant student of chemistry, Milhan decided to study pharmacy, after completing his ‘A’ level exams. In 2007 , he got himself admitted in a university of Malaysia, where he had a Thai room-mate. Together, they had visited Bangkok, where Milhan got introduced to yaba. By this time, however, a series of highly publicised raids, had implicated some well-known business people in Bangkok. Milan returned to Kuala Lumpur with samples of yaba. Using his university’s well-equipped laboratory, he started to figure out the chemical composition of the drug, and after putting in a lot of effort, he separated methamphetamine from the junk, including sucrose, different essences and other complex chemical materials. After separating 20 gm methamphetamine from 800 gm yaba pills, Milhan planned to make a more potent yaba pill, by increasing the amount of pure methamphetamine, by using Alexander Shulgin’s formula for making methylenedioxymethamphetamine ( MDMA), popularly known as ecstasy. Meanwhile, on a visit to Bangladesh, Milhan figured out that local yaba pills contained a percentage of heroin. He discovered that 6 to 8 per cent heroin in these pills increase the intensity of addiction. These pills contain a very low amount of methamphetamine, he found out. Milhan traced the route through which these pills enter the country, and discovered that the Myanmar border is the haven for yaba smugglers. By hitting friendly notes with some dealers, he soon gained vital insights on how the business runs in Bangladesh.