Heroin and its victims
By Supun Dias and Hafeel Farisz
Nov 1, 2011

The use of heroin is the primary source of destruction of the youth within the country. The drug is such that once a user is addicted there is little or no way that a user can be rehabilitated. This is due to the fact that the drug causes an insatiable craving and more of it is needed to satisfy this craving, as the body builds up a greater tolerance to it. Furthermore most underworld violence can be directly linked to heroin. Many users are below the age of thirty and reside within the garden tenements. However this demography is not absolute, with many middle and upper class youth also falling prey to the drug.

However the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) has detected a major decrease in the activities of drug peddlers and a marked drop in heroin and other narcotics consumption among those in Colombo and its suburbs, during the last few weeks.

“There is a big drop in heroin consumption and the sale of drugs. According to information gathered by our officers the dealers have come across a major difficulty in their strategy. The facilitators have also changed all of a sudden,” a senior narcotics officer said.

“Their ways of transportation have changed rapidly. They also have changed the places where they used to store the heroin,” he said.

“We have been working on this for some time and we are hoping that we can make a big breakthrough in the near future to find reasons which resulted in making changes in their strategy,” he noted.

According to the PNB the most notable areas where the deals are made is Magazine Road, Serpentine Road, Dematagoda, Grandpass and Kunuela area in Wattala which are the strategic centres where the deals are struck and thereafter the products are distributed.

According to the police, heroin is brought down to the country in many ways, especially from Pakistan. Sri Lanka is used as a transit hub as well.

Although the PNB is mainly involved in cracking down drug dealers in the recent past, the elite Special Task Force (STF) had also been assisting them in their work.

So far the police have arrested nearly 4400 heroin addicts and dealers during operations throughout the country during the last one and a half years.

According to highly placed police sources, a Pakistan born man called Siddeek is Sri Lanka's main heroin supplier and he is continuing the distribution and sales of heroin despite a crackdown on his activities by the authorities. He is the main heroin supplier to underworld groups which are operating in and around Colombo, according to informed police sources.

Some of Sri Lanka's most wanted drug dealers are Kirulapone Champi also known as Madura, Galkisse Ajantha, Kalubowila Sunanda, Ratmalane Asanka also known as Lansiya and Roxywatte Asanka.

Underworld leaders like Maligawatte Fargi, and Neluwe Priyantha were killed or died during confrontations with the STF. These prominent underworld characters were well connected to the drug ring in Colombo and some were directly importing illicit substances into the country.

Police said some of their operatives have already been arrested and their notorious leaders are now in hiding.

The largest haul of heroin of 55 kilogrammes concealed inside fake potatoes stored in a container of potatoes imported from Pakistan was seized at the Colombo port last year.

The sack with the heroin had been in the extreme corner of the container, which contained about 943 sacks of potatoes. Each potato in that sack had been cut in half and the middle was filled with heroin packed in small polythene packets and covered with plaster of paris.

The minimum street value of the heroin stock of 55 Kilograms is estimated at Rs.275 million and in accordance with the current market price for heroin the value has a possibility of increasing up to Rs.375 million. The price of a kilogramme of heroin in around Rs.4.5 million.

The raid was carried out following surveillance after the police was informed about the importation of such a haul of narcotics.

The suspect who imported the container had given an address in the Western Province but used a fake name. The PNB had then taken steps to send a dummy container with police officers inside to arrest the importer.

The police believe that the suspect and his associates have been involved in getting heroin from a dealer in a foreign country. A highly organized network including both Sri Lankans and Pakistanis is held responsible for running the highly lucrative trade on a large scale.

In June last year, the PNB seized heroin worth Rs.40 million and cash worth Rs.4 million and arrested a leading businessman who is suspected to be the distributor of the content, from a safe house in Hanwella.

After interrogating the businessman who was under detention orders, the police were able to locate the safe house in Hanwella where 8kg and 200 grammes were hidden. A woman who was in charge of the residence was also taken in to custody by the police. The raid was carried out following surveillance in the area about the suspects and based on information that the suspect and his associates were preparing for a major heroin deal.

Several individuals believed to be his associates had fled the area when the police conducted the raid. The police believe that the suspect and his associates have been involved in importing heroin. According to the police they have already identified the foreign network that sends heroin to Sri Lanka.

The Police also infer that the main suspect and his associates have been involved in getting heroin from dealers in the sea and distributing the drugs through fishermen and other associates.

Many programmes have been launched by the Police Department with the Ministry of Defence but they face difficulties in bringing drug peddlers under the arm of the law due to these suspects being highly connected individuals from Colombo and its suburbs.

Therefore the Police Department seeks the help of the public to provide sufficient and reliable information about these illegal activities.

Afghanistan is considered the hub for this flourishing industry which is also connected to a wider global network. The nexus revolves around Afghanistan, Pakistan and India known as the 'Golden crescent' and narcotics from this area are trafficked to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka serves as a transshipment hub for heroine trading especially by heroin dealers in countries like India and Pakistan.

Reports say that there are currently about 55,000 regular heroin addicts in the country. Majority of these youths are from the urban areas. A heroin addict is likely to suffer from infections in the heart lining and valves, cellulitis, liver diseases and diseases of the respiratory system.

The Police Narcotics Bureau together with its Pakistani counterpart took steps during the tenure of the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Jayantha Wickramaratne to curb the well organized heroin trade that used Sri Lanka as the transit point.

The Bureau stepped up operations and raids against drug dealers after the largest heroin stock of that time, 40 kilogrammes valued at Rs.235 million was seized in Muthupanthiya, Chilaw following a similar detection in Kiriyankalliya, Mundalama where 30 kilogrammes of heroin valued at Rs.175 million was recovered respectively in the early months of last year.

The use of the drug ‘Heroin’ is not confined, as commonly believed, to the members of the lower strata of Sri Lankan society. There are many heroin addicts who are English speaking and come from middle and upper class families. The main factor that needs to be understood with the addiction to heroin is the fact that an overwhelming majority of heroin addicts usually start from milder drugs. Addicts who consider heroin as their first and only drug are virtually nonexistent. The evolution from ganja to heroin is the most common, this is in no way infers that all ganja users will inevitably use heroin but the other way around is true more often than notall heroin users have at one point in their lives used ganja heavily. These users also use other intoxicants such as “Corex D” a cough syrup that gives the mind a slow but steady rush and euphoria. For the middle and upper class users the evolution differs where the use of drugs such as Cocaine and party drugs such as Ecstasy and MDMA precede the use of and addition to heroin. Heroin is sold quite often within “wathu”/ (garden tenements) in urban areas. The consumer either through a third party or directly, once a relationship is established with the peddler, buys the drug in grammes at a pre arranged place. The peddlers almost always have an upper hand during negotiations as he is aware that the craving for the drug by the consumer is immense.

Heroin is simply an organic, or plantderived, compound that combines morphine with acetic acid (vinegar) or acetic anhydride (an acid). It is processed from the same raw gum opium that can produce morphine, codeine, or the baine. Farmers drain the sap from ripening opium poppies and boil it down into a sticky gum. The gum is treated in a water base with chemicals such as lime, ammonium chloride, activated charcoal, and hydrochloric acid. This causes the morphine to leak out of the gum.

When this product is dry, it is shaped into bricks. The bricks are then sent to other secret laboratories that mix the morphine with acetic anhydride, more activated charcoal, and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Once again the particles are allowed to settle in water. When the particles are dried, they are treated with hydrochloric acid, producing the heroin hydrochloride that is sold on the streets as a white powder.

Most of the white powder heroin sold comes from Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The product sold to users is never pure heroin. Instead the heroin is "cut" with a number of other water-soluble substances, including sugar, overthe-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol), tranquilizers, baking soda, powdered milk, starch, and talcum powder. Some batches of heroin reportedly have been cut with rat poison or laundry detergent. ”Cutting” reduces the purity of the product and allows the dealer to stretch his supply. It also provides the user with an uncertain dosage that can range from 70 percent heroin to 20 percent heroin. Diacetylmorphine, is the non-medical term for heroin. Heroin is used at the beginning as a recreational drug for the transcendent relaxation and intense euphoria it induces. Many anthropologists and sociologists describe Heroin as the “perfect whatever drug”. The most dangerous element of heroin is that tolerance for the drug quickly develops; therefore, users need more of the drug to achieve the same effect. Its popularity with recreational drug users, compared to morphine, reportedly stems from its perceived differing effects. In particular, users report an intense rush, an acute transcendent state of euphoria when the drug rushes into the brain.

These lower rungs of Sri Lankan society have mainly drifted towards the use of the drug through the community they live in. These users are seen mainly within the shanties of Colombo and its suburbs and roam about in gangs. Almost all addicts in the urban areas are male. This fact holds true to the rural areas as well, but there have been instances where female addicts and peddlers have been nabbed in these areas.

The main method of indulging with the drug is by way of inhaling or ‘snorting’ used by the party drug users as well as the cocaine users, as it gives the user instant euphoria.

The more sophisticated urban user can induce the drug by way of injection. This method is widely practised in the west and is considered one of the main causes for the spread of HIV and other transmittable diseases. Heroin is popular because its effects can be felt almost immediately. This is because heroin is the most fat soluble of the natural opiates. This means that a highly fat-soluble drug enters the bloodstream faster and moves to the brain faster. The injecting risks of its own; as the injecting into an artery instead of a vein can cause severe damage to a limb or an internal organ. Over time, veins subjected to repeated injections grow hard or collapse and the user must find new veins in other parts of the body. Hard-core heroin use leaves tell-tale needle tracks in their arms.

Injected heroin causes a brief, intense rush of pleasure, followed by a four- to six-hour period of weariness and wellbeing. Breathing slows, and the user experiences no pain. However, he or she may experience skin irritation that is relieved by scratching. Heroin activates the part of the brain that governs vomiting, so users often throw up right after injecting. They sometimes use the force of their nausea to judge the strength of the dose. Some users inject heroin right under the skin—a process called "chipping." Users also inject it into muscle tissue as well. Both of these processes delay the onset of the high by several minutes. Many first time users also smoke the drug due to the mistaken belief that it would not make them addicts. There are many instances where users have initially used heroin in order to ‘experiment’ but have met their fate finding themselves either behind bars or at a rehabilitation centre with their lives in ruins. This drug unlike any other recreational drug is the most dangerous and can throw one’s life immediately into disarray. The addiction causes the user to do things that would have been impossible for his friends and family to think he’d do, prior to the drug use—the most common being theft; in order to finance their addiction. The addiction is such that the user justifies the stealing within himself and seldom understands the impact of his actions.

There are some addicts who despite having understood the gravity of the addiction cannot stop the indulgence. This is common with many upper and middle class youth. There are tell tale signs of addiction; not being at home for long periods of time, lying, physical weariness beginning to show with the jaws breaking inwards and drastic weight loss. Constant making up of stories in order to leave out suspicion or even worse the admitting of the use and addiction to the users close friends and family which friends and family consider as a ‘come clean’ gesture is used for nothing other than sympathy in order to finance the drug.

The only way out of the drug would be rehabilitation. There is absolutely no chance of rehabilitation through motivation and staying in one’s house having understood the effects of the addiction. These methods can be considered plastic cures. What has to be understood is that the addiction to heroin is unlike any other addiction and once a user is addicted there is no chance whatsoever of getting him out of the addiction, without professional rehabilitation. The drug is such that it changes the thought process of a person completely and the craving for the drug is such that the user would go to any lengths in order to satisfy this craving. This explains the big money involved with the drug. Millions are made and millions are left helpless.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka