Drug-related deaths are marked at an astounding 685 people per day globally. Exactly how many of these are a result of methamphetamine use is difficult to say. However, the highly addictive nature of the chemical mixture is known for its intense highs and dangerous physical and psychological effects on the user.
Crystal methamphetamine, more popularly known by its street names Ice and Glass, consists of colourless crystals of varying sizes and shapes that are used by smoking, insufflations and injecting into one’s body. Designed to affect the user’s central nervous system, the drug offers an illusion of well being, and a burst of energy and confidence. The release of the chemical compound dopamine gives a false sense of happiness, while another component pseudoephedrine, also used in cough medicine, eases the mind. Its effects usually last between six to 24 hours
According to the Anti Narcotics Force, drug users in Pakistan spend an average of Rs230 per day on their addiction. Due to its relatively high price tag, crystal meth is commonly perceived to be the drug of choice for the higher socioeconomic groups.
The estimated cost of a kilogramme of Ice ranges anywhere from Rs650,000 to Rs1.1 million. In Peshawar, the purer form of Ice can cost up to Rs.8,000 per gram. Locally produced forms, known as ‘Lahori Ice’, go for Rs 1,500 or Rs. 2,500 per gram.
In Pakistan, crystal meth is mostly imported, although there are local labs that produce the substance as well. The ANF cracked down on the use of the drug after a meth lab in Karachi’s upscale Defence area exploded in 2015. But law enforcers have made little headway since then.
Compared to the widespread use of heroin, opium, and hashish, the use of crystal meth does not rank high on the priority list for authorities. But news reports suggest the use of the drug has been slowly taking over the urban elite of the country.
In January, the Anti-Narcotics Force recovered 815 grams of the substance from a passenger at Peshawar’s Bacha Khan airport.
According to the Peshawar police, 37 men were arrested in the last six months for dealing in Ice. But the arrested walked free after spending only two days in jail.
“Ice is becoming a dangerous problem for us,” says Sajjad Khan, the SSP Operations in Peshawar. “Yet, we have to let these men go, since the amount seized is always small, less than 10 grams.”
An officer needs to find 100 grams on a seller to convict him under Pakistan’s laws, while meth dealers don’t need to carry over 50 grams to sell.
“We hope parliamentarians would amend the existing law to clearly define Ice as an illegal drug,” says Khan.