Scourge of Heroin and Synthetic Drugs

Unless, a concerted action is undertaken to arrest the scourge when time is still on our side, repression will prove incapable of containing it once it gathers impossible proportions

There was a news item recently that a 25-year old police officer coming from Madagascar was found by MRA and ADSU officers to have an important quantity of heroin in his luggage, worth about Rs 40 million. It was also stated that the officer in question would have made several trips to this destination. His contacts would also have been identified by means of a “controlled delivery”.

Last week Reunion Island customs and police intercepted Mauritian speedboat ‘Sweet Love Mama’ in the port of Ste-Rose in the night of Thursday to Friday November 11, with about forty kilos of heroin on board. The value of the drug is estimated to be worth some Rs 639 million. Mauritian accomplices have been detained by the police in Reunion Island.

We are also coming to know from the hearings of the Commission of Inquiry on drugs chaired by Judge Paul Lam Shang Leen, that the local drug business operates through a complex network, involving dealers, pharmacies, prison officers and doctors. It would appear that the trade might even be conducted in part from prison cells by prisoners equipped with cell phones subtly introduced into prison through internal complicities. Huge sums are apparently involved.

As if that was not all, we have been warned for about two years now that synthetic drugs have also made their way into Mauritius. These are apparently chemical compounds cheaper than traditional hard drugs like heroin, etc. Rumours have it that some synthetic drugs are being imported from China. There are even concerns that school laboratories may not be immune to a fast spreading culture of synthetic drugs being inculcated among school goers. There is not much those responsible for schools can do to take preventive action.

The relative inexpensiveness of synthetic drugs is making it easier for young people to join the drug stream. Other than attacking consumers at a young age, the additional serious concern is that the abuse of synthetic drugs is fast spreading out. There is no distinction now between pockets of urban regions notorious for adopting such bad habits. Young persons in rural areas – both boys and girls – appear to be as much if not more seriously affected now by the spread of synthetic drugs – unmindful of eventual life-threatening consequences.

What is equally concerning about the spread of synthetic drugs in the country is that minors are increasingly being caught up in its net. Some aged 11 or below have been found to have consumed synthetic drugs. There have been serious cases of health dislocation reported. Synthetic drug abuse appears to have even resulted in deaths, especially among minors getting addicted to it. The mental health hospital is not the place where low-age children can be treated for system disorder inflicted by synthetic drugs. They are then left to themselves under the care of disoriented parents not knowing which gods to pray to.

Families of minor victims of synthetic – as well as other hard – drugs see their lives transformed into a hell, from one day to the next. Just as in the case of hard drugs, areas infested by the use and availability of synthetic drugs have appeared on the map in different places. A place like Tranquebar, just as well as parts of a big village like Central Flacq, has apparently become a sore point in the synthetic drug chain in the country.

It is a strategy of addiction-creating companies, such as producers of carbonated drinks, tobacco and alcohol, to target their client-base preferably from a young age. In so doing, they ensure a long period of addiction and sustained sales, knowing quite well that the dose taken by users will increase over time. So, if the younger people are being targeted by suppliers of synthetic drugs, the question arises whether it does not form part of a well-organised ring of suppliers, as in the case of other addiction-creating companies.

At this stage, we may be at the beginnings of the synthetic drug abuse cycle. Many social costs are therefore on the way, let alone grave disruptions waiting to happen to the normal working of our society. These may manifest themselves due to unsatisfied wants and shortage of funds to meet drug expenses. It will not be too far before the scourge transmutes into other forms of social dysfunction involving theft, violence and several forms of associated crimes.

The current proliferation of synthetic and other drugs holds difficult challenges ahead for Mauritian society. Unless, a concerted action is undertaken to arrest the scourge when time is still on our side, using all the means in our hand, repression will prove incapable of containing it once it gathers impossible proportions. Observers of society have a feeling that the abuse of synthetic drugs is an explosion waiting to happen and that we are currently seeing only the beginnings of a catastrophe of much larger dimension.

Murli Dhar

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