Pakistan Pumps Diluted Heroin Into Punjab, Triggers Fear

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Chandigarh: The potency of heroin being pushed into Punjab through the border with Pakistan has fallen from 43% in 2014 to nearly one-fourth or around 12% in 2016. This may seem like good news initially, but experts and activists dealing with the drug problem in the state are disturbed. Smugglers will dilute heroin only if they are assured on a large market, they say.

The new trend has been noticed at a time when drugs have become a key issue in Punjab ahead of the February 4 voting. Both the Congress and AAP have promised to end the menace in a month in their manifestos. Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) zonal director Kaustubh Sharma says the decline in purity of heroin from Pakistan being seized in Punjab has been a steady one. Pure heroin content in every kg caught in 2013 used to be 43%-44%.

It went down to 23% in 2015.Latest seizures have potency of barely 11% to 12%. At the same time the price for a dealer has gone from Rs 3.5 lakh per kg three years ago to over Rs 6 lakh now, leading to a multifold rise in profits.

Sharma says, “It could be that smugglers are trying to make more money and at the same time, less potent drug would probably cause fewer overdose deaths and draw less attention.” Dr Aditya Avinash Kaushik, who is assisting Punjab and Haryana high court as amicus curiae in a PIL in the infamous Jagdish Bhola drug racket case, says, ” Alarm bells should be ringing loudly .The supplier can afford to dilute a drug only if there is permanent demand in the system.There have to be enough addicts around who continue to buy what they can get for such a trend to emerge.”

“It is disturbing that this is happening at the source of supply. World over dilution in potency happens lower down the narcotic supply chain. There is a case study in the US showing that drug lords push high purity drug which gets watered down along the route. If smugglers from across border are diluting it themselves, it means that they have assured ways of pushing it into the system,” he adds. In 2015, NCB and BSF had recovered 183kg of heroin and Punjab Police over 307kg of the drug. In 2016, till November end, NCB and BSF seized 135.3kg and Punjab Police 91.3kg till August.

BSF IG, Punjab Frontier, Mukul Goel says that they were not aware of any dip in potency of heroin they have been seizing. Goel, who took charge of the post early this month, says they have no way of testing potency.

‘Blood chemical analysis unit must’

There is no data with any government agency on the number of deaths due to drug overdose. “Quantifying overdose deaths is impossible.We don’t even have necessary systems to measure overdose.Besides, the addicts die of different reasons like heart failure. Finding the root important during the autopsy, pathogenesis is important. In every case where an overdose death is suspected, chemical blood analysis should be mandatory,” says Dr Aditya Avinash Kaushik.

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