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Times of India
27June 2011
By Christin Mathew Philip
Chennai,India

It Is Abused As Stimulant Since It Gives Same Effect As Cocaine

City Turns Transit Point For Ephedrine Drug Smuggling
The city is becoming a transit point for cheap ephedrine, replacing traditional, designer narcotics such as heroin and cocaine. For instance, in 2000, out of ten narcotics cases registered, nine were for heroin. Nearly 100 kg of heroin were seized.

Ephedrine was not in the crosshairs of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) at that time. But this year, so far, six out of eight cases relate to ephedrine and a little less than 100 kg of ephedrine have been seized by the NCB.

With the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, heroin smuggling to that country via Chennai has come down. Instead, ephedrine, which is widely available in India, is being smuggled out to lucrative markets in South East Asia through Chennai, say NCB officials. One kilogram of ephedrine costs Rs 2-3 lakh in the international market especially in Malaysia. "Ketamine and ephedrine are more profitable than heroin since they need only a small investment.

Ephedrine smuggling is more profitable than any other narcotic substance,„ says Davidson Devasirvatham, Chennai zonal director of NCB. Besides cost, ephedrine trafficking is attractive because it is less risky, he says. Heroin trafficking is a non-bailable offence, whereas ephedrine pushing is not. This is largely because there’s not much awareness in the legal system about the seriousness of ephedrine as a narcotic. "There’s little awareness about ephedrine even among the regular police,„ says a senior police official, who confessed that she herself didn’t know all the details about ephedrine, its effects and abuse and the lucrative market it commands.

Ephedrine is a white powder and is used to prepare medicines for treatment of asthma. Ephedrine is abused as a stimulant and appetite suppressant and can give the same effect as cocaine. Devasirvatham says that dual-use ephedrine is sometimes diverted by criminals for recreational use and abuse.

Ephedrine is a primary raw material for preparing Amphetamine Type Stimulant (ATS), a recreational drug used in Malaysia and Singapore. ATS is a popular party drug in China, Japan, Indonesia and Australia, too.

According to V Kanakasabai, dean of Madras Medical College, "All narcotics substances produce sleep but ephedrine will stimulate our mind. When stimulation increases the blood pressure will also rise along with the heart rate. Earlier it was prescribed by doctors for asthma, not anymore.„

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