Aiming to stop the illegal diversion of certain chemical formulations used to prepare drugs, such as heroin and ‘methamphetamine’, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has planned to sensitize the pharmaceutical industry to curb the practice.
Apart from concern about abuse of chemicals by drug mafia to manufacture psychotropic drugs, also known as party drugs, NCB officials are also worried about the sale of ‘over the counter’ medicines, which are used as drugs by many.
The proposed exercise of sensitising the industry about this serious issue came in the backdrop of two recent incidents, where authorities have learned about the use of two chemical compounds which are illegally used in manufacturing heroin and methamphetamine.
According to Zonal Director of Ahmedabad NCB Hari Om Gandhi, pharma and chemical companies can play a crucial role in preventing the illegal use of formulations.
“Our problem is related to the sale of prescription drugs, such as cough syrup, sold over the counter. Just like the US, people in India too use such medicines as drugs. There is a need to regulate the sale of such medicines, as no record is maintained at present about who bought those medicines and for what purpose,” he said.
The Ahmedabad Zonal Unit of NCB has jurisdiction comprising Gujarat and Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
Another concern of NCB is the illegal diversion of certain chemicals, such as Acetic Anhydride and Ephedrine. According to Gandhi, Acetic Anhydride is used in manufacturing heroin while Ephedrine is used in manufacturing methamphetamine (also known as Crystal Meth) by drug mafia.
“Although these chemicals are regulated under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, the industry needs to take extra precaution in handling them. They should be extra careful in transporting it, as there is big risk of theft too. There are various other means by which it reaches into the hands of drug mafia,” he said.
“We have also come to know that many chemical and pharma manufacturers are not aware about such illegal use and risks involved with it. In order to address these issues, NCB has decided to sensitize the industry. We are planning to hold detailed discussions with them to ensure their active involvement in overcoming the problem,” Gandhi said.
Few days back, NCB arrested two persons for possessing 1.2 kg of heroin, worth Rs 3.6 crore in the international market.
Upon investigation, officials learned that the contraband might have been manufactured using Acetic Anhydride, a chemical compound that finds use in starch preparation and other industries.
In April, Gujarat Police had seized 1,364 kg of Ephedrine worth Rs 270 crore from a factory on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
According to officials, Ephedrine is actually a medicine for Asthma and other breathing problems. However, drug mafia use it to prepare methamphetamine.
“Opium is very cheap in comparison to other drugs. Using just 2.5 kg of Acetic Anhydride, 10 kg of opium can be turned into 1 kg heroin, which is sold at a very high price. Same is the case with Ephedrine. Thus, it is very important for us as well as for the industry to take extra precaution for preventing these chemicals from going into the wrong hands,” he added.