Over the past few months,police interrogations in some sensitive cases,such as the Shakti Mills gangrape probe,reveal that most body and property offences have drug addicts who consume street snuff as offenders. In many property offences,police confirm the crime was committed within a few hours by desperate drug addicts.
While security agencies continue to grapple with the rising rate of crime committed by these offenders,especially in the past one year,NGOs and de-addiction centres have also seen a steady rise among addicts who use cheap and easily available chemicals shifting to petty crimes to fund their addiction.
We receive a lot of drug addicts. And almost all of these drug takers are also habitual users of cough syrups and whitener. They go for cheaper options as they dont have money to buy high-end drugs, said Dr Shubhangi Parkar,head of the de-addiction cell and acting dean at KEM Hospital. The hospital began a pilot study to counter drug addiction in April,2011,involving around 50 hardcore opioid dependent patients using Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT),instead of Buprenorphine treatment,which showed a lower success rate. Of the 50 patients,10 were from middle social economic strata and over 30 from lower social economic strata,indicating the larger social bent towards these drugs,says Snnighda Dittackavi,research assistant at KEM de-addiction cell.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been conducting stringent drives. Since April 2012,FDA has carried out 3,639 inspections,after which 239 chemists licences have been suspended and 39 licences cancelled.
FDA has banned sale of all codeine products without prescription. We do daily inspections,however,this is a difficult task. There are more than 5,000 chemists in the city and a chemists sale is in volumes,and all his bills and prescriptions have to be checked. Sometimes,retailers sell in black, said Kamlakar Shinde,Joint Commissioner,FDA.
Jagnath Shinde,President of Chemist Association,said,This year,licences of around 80 chemists in our association were suspended. We have appealed to the government for a stay order, he said. He added that on several occasions,chemists sell cough syrups to old people who claim they do not have prescription and need the syrup for actually treating cough. Usually,chemists comply with all FDA regulations,but there are a few fly-by-night operators. Youngsters also devise smart ways of obtaining cough syrups, he said.
A local activist,Mahmood Hussain Qureshi,(containing codeine phosphate) said school and college students buy Rexcof,Restyl and other sleeping pills in certain areas of South-Mumbai from dealers,paying more than the market price. I know parents who complain that their childrens steal money from them to buy cough syrups and pills, Qureshi said.