Tablets ‘pain-point’ for Chennai cops cracking down on drugs

Opioid tablets smuggled into city, sold to youth at low prices, say Chennai police
ILLUSTRATION : MANDAR PARDIKAR
ILLUSTRATION : MANDAR PARDIKAR

CHENNAI: Police’s crackdown on drugs in the city is not limited to ganja, cocaine and meth; it also includes illegally procured opioid painkiller tablets and sedatives which seem to be the popular choice among adolescent boys and youth belonging to the low-income groups.

A conservative estimate showed that the city police, on an average, might be seizing at least 5,000 tablets like Nitrazepam and Tapentadol every month. An official statement by the Chennai City Police on May 21 said around 6,000 pain killer tablets were seized in the preceding week. Police arrested 21 people in the 19-21 age group in the last seven days and recovered 4,500 pills, some of them in bulk.

According to police, the pills are crushed and injected. The prick gives a hallucinatory effect or a high for 4-12 hours. Each tablet costs between Rs 30 and Rs 300, which is cheaper than other drugs, and this keeps it within the reach of even schoolkids. The socio-economic milieu of consumers plays a big role in getting addicted to the drug. Most of the youth are introduced to drugs during adolescence when there is a curiosity to try out new things, a senior police official said. There is also evidence of daily wage earners using such tablets, he added.

Those selling such painkiller tablets make a huge profit as the pills are sold 10 times higher than cost price. Contrary to perceptions, investigations have found that these pills are procured in bulk from Mumbai, other parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka and brought to Tamil Nadu by train.

“These tablets are not easily available at pharmacies in Chennai and are not sold over the counter without a prescription,” said M R Sibi Chakravarthi, Joint Commissioner of Police, Chennai City Police, South Zone. Arrests have been made from Dadar in Mumbai and Hyderabad for selling these tablets to people from Tamil Nadu who had gone there to procure them, he added.

Though drug abuse may itself not induce crime, police said addicted youngsters would be willing to go to any extreme to procure the contraband. This is mainly because the user suffers severe headaches when the effect of the drug wears off and feels and the urge to take another tablet.

“On injecting the drug, they might not have inhibitions or fear, and this leads them to commit petty or violent crimes,” said M Srinivasan, professor, Department of Criminology, University of Madras.

According to doctors, abuse of opioids leads to anxiety-related issues, constipation and also kidney and liver damage.

Weaning youngsters away from drugs is difficult with poverty being a roadblock. “Some families might know that a member is abusing drugs. The person might promise to reform when confronted, but rehab or de-addiction centres might be costly for these families,” a police official said. De-addiction and rehabilitation is a long-term process which has to be initiated from the society, Srinivasan added.

“A person is unlikely to use drugs if sensitised to its serious effects by parents, schools and societal agencies from an early age. Though supply can be cut by the police, it is critical to cut demand from the society,” he said.

Consistent psychological intervention and therapy would play an important role in freeing children from substance abuse. It is also important to understand multiple vulnerabilities and address them, said NA Arivukkarasi, assistant professor, Madras School of Social Work.

5 lakh tablets seized near Rameswaram

Over 5 lakh painkiller tablets that were concealed inside a car near Rameswaram for being smuggled into Sri Lanka, were seized on Friday. The police said that based on a tip-off, an NCB team seized the drug from a car parked in Vedalai area.

Pill trouble

  • Recent largest seizure: 3,200 tablets in two cases on May 18

  • Most common painkiller tablets: Tydol, Nitrazepam and Nitravet

  • Side effects: Anxiety issues, constipation, kidney and liver damage, nerve disorder

  • Rate: Rs 30-300 for a single tablet

Known places of origin:

1. Maharashtra,

2. Andhra Pradesh,

3. Karnataka

(With inputs from Siddharth Prabhakar)

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