Beware of drug-laced herbal pills- a toxic new trend | Sunday Observer

Beware of drug-laced herbal pills- a toxic new trend

23 January, 2022

At the beginning of this year (Jan 2), an English daily newspaper carried a news item of another ruse by the Drug mafia to prey on young students with their illegal products: selling herbal pills laced with drugs. The report, quoting Police sources, stated that three persons had been arrested at an ayurvedic drugs sales outlet on December 31 for reportedly selling cannabis mixed with ayurvedic pills to senior school children in the Kurunegala district where apparently the number of senior students hooked on drugs is piling up. The pills had been sold at and around private tuition classes with students reportedly being the regular customers as they had become addicted to the pills.

Informed sources were also reported as saying that the market value for the 764 pills was estimated to be Rs 2.5 million, with a single pill sold at Rs 150 to the students, while Police sources also noted that no information about the manufacturers was found on the labels on the bottles The fact that many students are now becoming drug addicts has raised grave concerns among health authorities, battling to eliminate drugs in the country amid a raging Covid- 19 pandemic. According to them the toxic cocktail contained in these pills could have dire health impacts on the users’ health, both in the short term and long term.

To find more about how using such drugs can harm humans, the Sunday Observer spoke to Emeritus Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, University of Colombo and Senior Professor of Forensic Medicine General Sir John Kotelawela Defence University, and Former Chairman of the National Drugs Control Board (NDDCB), Professor Ravindra Fernando to share his expertise on the health impacts of taking these drugs.

Were herbal pills laced with drugs something new? we asked. Or was it an old practice now being revived to trap more unsuspecting youth into the drug habit?

In response, he said, “It is an old practice. Herbals have been mixed with dangerous drugs and sold worldwide,”

Asked to tell us in detail the adverse effects the toxic tablets could have on the users, he said,

“Adverse effects depend on the type of drug. For example, if you take heroin-laced pills, right after you take heroin, you get a rush of good feelings and happiness. Then, for several hours, you feel as if the world has slowed down. You think slowly and may walk slowly. Some users say you feel like you are in a dream. Heroin blocks your body from getting pain messages and slows your heart rate and breathing. If you overdose, you may stop breathing and die.”

We inquired how parents could know if their children were using such drugs and what the signs and symptoms were that they should look out for. In reply he said, “Behavioural changes, sleepiness, and aggressive behaviour are the signs to look for in children”.

To our question on the socio-economic problems that were likely to arise due to the high cost of the drugs and the dependency on them by students with no regular income, he said, “Children may start stealing from their mother’s handbag or father’s purse. They may try to steal from friends or houses in the neighbourhood.”

Asked if those already addicted to these herbal pills could be cured, and what the process would be, he said, “They may need medical help. It may be necessary to consult a doctor to get advice. Sometimes drug therapy and counselling may be necessary.”

The government has pledged to eliminate drugs from our country within the next few years. Do you think this is possible? We asked

A well-designed action plan with the cooperation and advice of professionals in the field is necessary. A discussion with all stakeholders is required”

Asked if he had a message to give both the state and local drug manufacturers he said, “Be aware of the problem and take appropriate action soon.”

In his message to teachers, he said, “Keep a careful eye on children. Watch their behaviour closely.”

His final message to the students who have become victims of these drugs was “Don’t take or test drugs or any suspicious substance that you don’t know. If you face or experience any problems, tell your parents.”