MUMBAI: The reason Mumbai’s youth consume the deadly meth or M-cat is simple: in the short-term, these drug release high levels of neurotransmitter dopamine. A hormone, dopamine is associated with pleasure that one draws from happy activities such as eating one’s favorite dish, watching a favorite movie or being in the company of a loved one and so on.
The reason doctors are worried about meth and other such “middle-class cocaine alternatives” is also obvious: these lab-drugs are highly addictive and cause a host of physical and mental problems. ‘Meth mouth’, characterized by tooth decay and fall, is one of the obvious side-effects. Psychosis, along with hallucinations, is another big worry. Newer research in the US where meth was banned long back show structural changes in the brain areas associated with emotions and cognition.
“Around 80% of addicts admitted for rehabilitation in state government-run GT Hospital near CST as well as Masina Hospital in Byculla are meth addicts,” said psychiatrist Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla. He said many of the addicts become prone to lung infections because of rampant meth and M-cat usage. The show of aggression, the frequency of nose bleeds and the odd convulsions is the price that many of these addicts pay, said Dr Matcheswalla.
“In the early eighties, we saw brown sugar addiction. Now, it is addiction to the amphetamine family of compounds such as crystal meth or M-cat,” said psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty. “It was previously believed that an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, but nowadays an empty house is a devil’s workshop. Youngsters look for such empty houses because they get access to drugs, games and porn,” he added.
Doctors say these lab-grown compounds are cheap to make: literally cooked in a pressure cooker and dried in the open. “Having a mephedrone fix costs Rs 15 which is equivalent to buying vada pav,” said Dr Yusuf Merchant who runs the NGO Drug Abuse Information Rehabilitation and Research Centre (DAIRRC).
At a press conference held on Tuesday, he said M-cat had become popular because “it is legal in India, it doesn’t have to be smoked but can be sniffed or eaten. It is a sexual stimulant. It is cheap costing Rs 150 for one gram.” Dr Merchant estimates that 30,000 teenagers in Mumbai alone are addicted to mephedrone. Dr Shetty saw six youngsters on Monday who want to break the habit. “Today, I saw three more with a similar request,” he said.
DAIRRC has petitioned the government to add drugs such as M-Cat and meth to the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act). Last week, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the state would appeal to the Centre to add such drugs to the Act. At present, the Mumbai police book those found with this substances under section 328 of the IPC that forbids the consumption, possession or transportation of a poisonous substance.