The production of deadly yaba tablets continues unabated even after the government has banned the import of its key ingredient.
The government banned pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient of yaba tablets since February last year, yet the tablet is being manufactured secretly using local methods. Since the ingredient is used in the manufacturing of other medicines, drug dealers are collecting it from these medicines to produce yaba.
Pharmacists say pseudoephedrine is a chemical which is used to manufacture 20-25 medicines. The chemical can easily be isolated from medicines. The situation has become so difficult to control that authorities are now mulling stopping the manufacturing of those medicines in which pseudoephedrine is used.
During a recent meeting organised by the Home Ministry, it was said that even though the import of pseudoephedrine was banned the manufacturing of the medicines in which it is used as an ingredient was not stopped.
Pseudoephedrines are contained in medicines to treat lungs, ear inflammation, sore throats, respiratory problems, and allergies. Local pharmaceutical companies produce tablets and syrups with this ingredient. When pseudoephedrine is isolated from these medicines through a reaction with red phosphorus, methyl amphetamine, a drug, is produced. Authorities are considering banning these medicines since phosphoric acid is available in the domestic market.
According to the Department of Narcotic Control (DNC), over the last five years, the import of these medicines which contain pseudoephedrine has increased several times higher than earlier.
During his Myanmar visit in October last year, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal urged Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to take initiatives to stop yaba production. Suu Kyi retorted that the ingredient of producing yaba was available in Bangladesh, said an official of the home ministry.
An intelligence official at the DNC said: “It costs Tk4,000 only to buy a kilogram of pseudoephedrine, and with this quantity it is possible to produce at least 100,000 yaba tablets at an estimated price of Tk2-3 crore.
“That’s why people are getting involved in the drug trade amidst risks. As pseudoephedrine is banned in Bangladesh the chemical is being smuggled from India and China. Besides, many pharmaceutical firms still have pseudoephedrine that was imported before the ban,” the official said, seeking anonymity.
The number of yaba addicts keeps increasing every day, the official said. “Currently at least 2-2.5 million people are yaba addicts. Yaba is now also a favourite of drug addicts living in remote areas. As the demand is on the rise drug traders have become interested in producing yaba in the country,” he said.
He further said: “Methyl amphetamine is produced mixing pseudoephedrine and phosphoric acid. Methyl amphetamine is a drug. It is mixed with myriad colours and powders before transforming it into yaba tablet. Yaba is also manufactured in four different methods.”
The intelligence official said the DNC was looking into the involvement of pharmaceutical companies in smuggling pseudoephedrine.
Currently 99% of the pseudoephedrine and nuphedrine in Bangladesh arrive via India and China since Bangladesh does not produce these materials. After Thailand takes tough stance on drug many of the crime world are trying to use Bangladesh as a transit point for smuggling drugs, DNC officials said.
They said sometimes major neighbouring countries support this trade of billions of dollars.
The international community wanted to blacklist Bangladesh when it was found that a consignment of 400 milligrams of pseudoephedrine went to a country of South America from a trading company of Mohammadpur in Dhaka. They thought that Bangladesh is being used as a transit hub for smuggling drugs but later they realised that Bangladesh was victimised.
According to DNC and police headquarters, 100,000 cases were filed in 2017 in connection with the peddling and seizure of drugs and 35,000 of them were related to yaba. From the data it is apparent that how terrible the situation is.
DNC Assistant Director Khorshed Alam said: “Currently the import of pseudoephedrine is banned in Bangladesh. We have also sealed off pseudoephedrine imported by the companies. We often conduct drives at factories following tip-offs.”
Since Myanmar is trying to spread the news that yaba is being produced in Bangladesh in various international forums, law enforcers and DNC do not want to reveal the information of unearthing of yaba manufacturing factories and ingredients in order to hide it.
During a conference in Thailand in February, Myanmar refuted the allegation of producing yaba.
DNC Chief Chemical Examiner Dulal Krishna Saha, who attended the conference on behalf of Bangladesh, said: “Drug peddlers have changed the route after Thailand has taken tough stance on drug. Myanmar always tries to say that yaba tablets were smuggled from Bangladesh instead of their country.”
He said Bangladesh handed over a list of 40 yaba manufacturing factories located in the border areas of Myanmar. However, the Myanmar authorities kept mum about the list.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com