The younger generation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially students of universities and high schools, have found a new and dangerous intoxicant to party with their friends and peers. The newly introduced drug is inorganic and synthetically manufactured in clandestine laboratories around the country.
The drug, known as ‘ice’, crystal meth or meth (short for methamphetamine) is highly addictive and is often used to avoid sleep and hunger. According to an anonymous user in Peshawar University, even small quantities of crystal meth last for hours. “ I prefer it because the effects last a long time. I stay awake and fresh for more than 24 hours without feeling exhausted.”
The drug is commonly available in Peshawar University and, according to experts, it is manufactured in the tribal areas and Afghanistan. Currently, there is no law banning the sale and use of Ice, and this has contributed to the drug’s widespread popularity.
According to a student of Peshawar University, who wished to be mentioned only as Ashfaq, most students use the drug for recreational purposes. “There is no healthy activity for young people to engage in and, as a result, they turn to drugs that are easily available. Unemployment among the youth is also a major reason for addiction. ‘Ice’ freshens our mood and we forget about the worries of unemployment,” he explained.
According to Dr. Hina Khan, a medical practitioner at Hayatabad Medical Complex, the drug is more lethal than heroin or hashish (cannabis). “Hashish usage is common in every age group. ‘Ice’ is the preferred drug of the younger generation, and its users are growing at an alarming rate,” she said.
According to the doctor, a majority of students consume the drug claiming it helps them study for extended periods of time. Its users also include female students.
The drug is synthesised in laboratories from the chemical ephedrine. It boosts users’ energy levels and alertness, but badly affects their nervous system and physical condition with prolonged use.
The ‘ice’ available in Peshawar is sold at variable prices. Locally manufactured, it is more expensive than heroin and hashish. Umair, a student of Peshawar University who is addicted to meth, stated that he had been buying it for Rs.1,500 to 3,000 per gram in the local market.
Running his own private medical practice in Bara Gate area of Peshawar, Dr. Alamzeb also agreed that crystal meth is more dangerous than other drugs. One of the reasons he gives for its exceedingly harmful effects is that it is completely synthesised and not a naturally occurring intoxicant. He explained that the drug affects lungs, kidneys and the central nervous system, inducing physical weakness.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “Long-term methamphetamine use has many negative consequences for physical health, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (meth mouth), and skin sores caused by scratching. Methamphetamine use also raises the risk of contracting infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C. These can be contracted both by sharing contaminated drug injection equipment and through unsafe sex. Regardless of how it is taken, methamphetamine alters judgment and inhibition and can lead people to engage in these and other types of risky behaviors.”
Photos: Saqib Nawaz