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Dhaka Tribune

Demon in a bottle

Is Phensedyl about to make a comeback?

Update : 16 Sep 2019, 12:03 AM

As a nationwide crackdown on the methamphetamine-based drug yaba continues, an old scourge which had been dormant for some time is rearing its ugly head once more. As per a Bangla Tribune report, the cough syrup Phensedyl -- known as Dyl or “inchi” -- is making a comeback. 

Reportedly, Phensedyl is being sold at known drug spots across the capital between Tk1,400 and Tk2,000. Law enforcers have said that new Phensedyl factories have sprung up near the Indian border.

At a meeting of Border Guards Bangladesh, it has been mentioned that Phensedyl is entering the country through the borders of 19 districts. Though Phensedyl addiction saw a decline with the rising popularity of yaba, in recent times, the smuggling of Phensedyl has seen a hike of 25.57%. 

Why we need to be alarmed

With yaba under the spotlight, the spread of the codeine-based cough syrup can be termed a recrudescence. Phensedyl was the “drug de jour” in the 80s and all throughout the 90s, ravaging an entire generation of young people in the border districts. 

In the early 90s, the situation was so appalling that countless women living in district towns were also addicted to the cough syrup. Shockingly, by the time the authority woke up and realized that a cough syrup was doing so much damage, it was too late. 

When the syrup was first being abused in the early 80s, the drug scene was dominated by heroin, Mandrex, charas, and marijuana.

In a conservative country where alcohol had always been slated as sinful, the initial reaction to Phensedyl was somewhat indifferent because most parents thought: What more can a cough syrup do? 

This lackadaisical attitude went into the 90s when society started to wake up to the horrors of Phensedyl. Marriages broke down, young men with potential became unable to work, and countless women became addicted. Surprisingly, even in the mid-90s, government figures were often heard to comment: Is it that harmful? 

The irony is that while demonizing alcohol had always been a part of social zeitgeist, the insidious rise of Phensedyl went on for more than a decade.

When law enforcers began the crackdown, the syrup was being transported using ingenious methods: Inside large containers of anti-septic liquid, soft drink bottles, and so on. 

The reason for the rise of the drug is that the factories on the Indian side are open after an abeyance. The price is also quite high, going up to Tk2,000 for the best quality. In the 90s, Phensedyl with the most enduring kick was known as “GG” or “Mandira,” and sold for Tk350 to Tk450. To make the syrup even more powerful, popular sleeping pills called Seduxen and Eunoctin were added. 

From April 1 till September 30, 2018, 162,782 Phensedyl bottles were recovered. While from October 2018 till March, the recovered number is 204,409 bottles. Additional director of the Narcotics Control Department, Mosaddek Hossain Reza, said: “We are recovering Phensedyl regularly and feel that its popularity has seen a surge.”

India needs to act now

To be blunt, the cough syrup had always come from the Indian side of the border and despite numerous meets between the border forces, the factories went on manufacturing and sending the drug into Bangladesh. 

By the time they were closed, yaba had already taken a foothold. With reports of the factories re-opening, the onus is on India to act first.

Unless these factories are shut down, Phensedyl will enter Bangladesh and the young in the border towns will be left vulnerable. In the case of yaba, the reaction from the authority came too late because for the first 10 years of the drug’s infiltration, the dissemination was done under the tag line: Party drug. 

Those who took it believed that this would only enhance a feeling of euphoria during a concert or a party. Also, the trickling down of yaba from the upper echelons of society to the lower ones was not taken seriously. What began as an exclusive “high” for the affluent is now sold in slums. 

In the past, Dhaka had several known spots like Begunbaari, the Nilkhet Babupura slum, and Mohammadpur Town Hall bazaar where drugs were sold, but now the sellers often provide home delivery based on Internet-based orders. 

This means that the work of the law enforcers has become tough. The only way to counter the rise of a dormant monster is to kill it at the source.

For that to happen, India needs to do what a true friend should be doing: Carry out a joint BSF-BGB drive near the border area and declare a year-long anti-drug drive. 

Since there is so much talk of Indo-Bangla entente cordiale, such a move should not be tough, right?

Towheed Feroze is a news editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.

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