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Phuket teens concoct ‘legal high’ using pharmacy drugs

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket teens concoct ‘legal high’ using pharmacy drugs | The Thaiger

PHUKET: A dangerous new drug mixture known as ‘gas’ is gaining popularity among Phuket teenagers and others in the southern region. The drug – prepared by mixing cough medicine, allergy medicine, pain killers, or muscle relaxants with a soft drink or other mixer – has yet to be declared illegal.

Currently, pharmacists are allowed to sell these drugs to walk-in customers, making them easier to access. This is one of the main reasons for its popularity among teenagers.

Officers are now trying to restrict the sale of these drugs to hospitals only, in order to stem the increase in consumption of the drink.

“We do not have an exact number of teenage consumers, but we can say that it is increasing, because the number of pharmacies charged with faking their sales records is increasing,” Somsuk Sumparnprateep, head of the consumer protection division of the Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO), told the Phuket Gazette.

WHAT IS GAS?

“The mixture was first produced and consumed many years ago, but our officers only came to know about it in 2013. It originated from the South and is a variation of 4×100, which is a mixture of kratom and cough syrup. It is mostly popular among 15 to 18 year olds,” Sithisak Kallyanapradit, director of the Narcotics Control Board (NCB), told the Gazette.

Three of the most common drugs used to produce gas are Procodyl, Tramadol and Dextromethorphan. Prodycol is used to treat allergy symptoms such as itching, runny nose and sneezing. Tramadol is a pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain. Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant, which affects the signals in the brain that trigger cough reflexes.

A 22-year-old from Kathu, who declined to be named, said that his group of six friends consumes about two to three batches per night.

“We feel relaxed and happy when drinking gas. It helps us forget about any kind of stress and puts us in a half-awake, half-asleep state. Gas makes your body feels like it’s weightless and floating and eventually puts you into a deep and peaceful sleep. It’s even better than drinking alcohol,” he said. “Also, we rarely catch the flu or a cold.”

HOW DANGEROUS IS IT?

“When mixed together, the different medicines used to make gas have a very potent effect on the nervous system. In some rare cases, if the user overdoses, he or she might even experience heart failure or mental illness. However, it varies from individual to individual and depends on the user’s health and drug history,” Mr Somsuk said.

Preparing one batch of gas requires a 100cc bottle of Procodyl and 10 pills of Tramadol.

The vast range of side effects include severe drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, hallucinations, double vision, anxiety, palpitations, facial tics, fever, sweating, tremors, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, itching, stomach pain, swelling, and several others. Continuous overdose and over-consumption may result in fainting, seizures and cardiac arrest.

A 20-year-old girl, who also declined to be named, told the Gazette about her usage.

“We usually stay up drinking gas all night and sometimes sleep all day afterward. It makes us slower when we go to school the next day and reduces our appetite,” she said.

“One of our friends, who drank too much, went to sleep and never woke up. It scared us at the time, but not anymore, as we don’t consume as much as they did,” she added.

She also said that another friend went ‘crazy’ after consuming gas.

“I believe that they partly went crazy because of gas, but they might have had some preexisting health problems or consumed more than we thought. I still don’t think gas is that harmful, otherwise we would all have stopped drinking it,” she said.

A 21-year-old Muslim teenager told the Gazette that he feels less guilty when drinking gas, as his religion prohibits him from drinking alcohol.

“I was introduced to it through friends of friends. I was quite scared when trying it for the first time, but it made me feel relaxed and peaceful. Then, I joined their group and drank almost every night. We have fun without fear of being arrested,” he said.

“I keep drinking it, because if I don’t, I won’t be allowed to be a part of the group anymore.”

WHY ISN’T IT ILLEGAL?

“As there is no kratom involvement, we cannot take any action until the Ministry of Public Health declares it to be illegal,” said Phuket City Police Deputy Superintendent Khunnadet Nanongkhai.

According to the Drug Act, BE 2510, gas ingredients are categorized as ‘dangerous medicines’ that can only be sold by licenced pharmacists.

“This is the only law we can use to control the spread and usage of this medicine,” Mr Somsuk said.
“We have been requested to keep an eye on pharmacies, but we don’t have the skills to check their records. Therefore, the raids have to be made together with PPHO.”

HOW TO CONTROL IT

“We have been doing our best so far to work with the Public Health Office and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to control the actions of pharmacies. If we restrict the source of the supply, teenagers will have no choice but to stop consuming it,” Mr Suthisak said.

“We cannot stop pharmacies from selling these drugs to customers, but we can control their sales,” he added.

“Some pharmacists use the demand from teenagers as a way to earn more money. They don’t care about the possibly disastrous consequences on the customers’ health. All they want is more profit,” Mr Somsuk said.

“A small fine is not enough of a deterrent. Unfortunately, the PPHO has no right to shut down their businesses or suspend their licences. That authority only lies with the governor.”

Even though the PPHO has limited the amount of drugs they can sell, pharmacists will always find a way of buying more, he added.

“Gas is very popular in the south, so pharmacies here contact other pharmacies from different regions and collect the drugs from them,” Mr Somsuk said.

SUGGESTIONS

The NCB has urged police, the FDA and the pharmacy club of Thailand to keep an eye out for gas abuse, and help each other to solve the problem.

“I requested the Ministry of Public Health to upgrade these medicines to ‘psychotropic substances’ so they can only be bought at hospitals, with a doctor’s prescription,” said Mr Sithisak.

“It is still under consideration, as it will make the process cumbersome for legitimate consumers, who will have to waste their time and money going to the hospital for something they could easily get at the pharmacy before.”

Mr Somsuk also asked the community to step up and get proactive about the issue.
“As teenagers are the main consumers of this, parents have to keep a strict eye on their children. Community members must also report suspicious activities by any pharmacies,” he said.

— Kongleaphy Keam

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Crime

2 Phuket Town nightclubs shut down after allegedly violating multiple laws

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2 Phuket Town nightclubs shut down after allegedly violating multiple laws | The Thaiger

2 Phuket Town nightclubs are shutting down after allegedly violating multiple laws. The Maldives and H20 on Lim Sui Ju Road, on the south end of Phuket Town were ordered by the Phuket Governor to close immediately, with the Maldives being orderd to close for 5 years.

The order comes after the Phuket City Police inspected the Maldives club, arresting the manager for operating an entertainment venue without a permit, allowing people under 20 years old to work or “use services in the venue,” and for selling alcohol without a permit.

Governor Narong cited his authority under Section 4 of NCPO order 22/2558 to order the Maldives nightclub to be closed for 5 years, from March 5, 2021 to March 4, 2026.

The order also prohibits the operators from opening any other entertainment venues during the same period. The H20 nightclub was ordered to close by a provincial order after Phuket City Police say they inspected the venue and charged the operator for selling or providing shisha, or baraku, without permission.

The owner was also accused of operating an entertainment venue without a permit and violating the provincial order for enforcing Covid-19 safety measures. But it is unknown what penalties were handed down to the operator of the H20 nightclub, unlike the Maldives operator, who received a penalty.

Instead, the governor cited the Revolution Council announcement of 1959, to shut down the establishment for 30 days from March 5, 2021 to April 3, 2021. The orders noted that both operators of the clubs have the right to appeal the closures, having 15 days to file an appeal directly with the Phuket Governor.

Meanwhile, Phuket is set to open its doors to vaccinated, international tourists by October, pending the government’s approval. The local government’s initiative, named Phuket First October, proposes vaccinating a majority of its population over 18 years of age in time for the high season.

The move would allow thousands of vaccinated Europeans to enter Thailand, while locals would be protected from the virus symptoms.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Drugs

Early morning drug busts in Phuket yield 9 arrests

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Early morning drug busts in Phuket yield 9 arrests | The Thaiger

An early morning drug bust in Rawai, Phuket has yielded 9 arrests. The first raid yesterday consisted of 30 task force members who raided a sea gypsy shack near the beachfront in Rawai.

43 year old Saroch Homhuan, and 34 year old Juree Bangjak, were arrested and charged with posession of a Category I drug with the intent to sell, after police found 9 pills of methamphetamine, or yaba in Thai, over 6 grams of crystal meth, or ya ice in Thai, and 3 other “items of evidence.”

31 year old Suriyan Na Takuathung, and 29 year old Prathip Areerop, were arrested and charged with possession of a Category 1 drug with intent to sell, and possession of a Category 5 drug respectively. Police say they found 20 pills of methamphetamine, 0.92 grams of dried marijuana and 5 items of drug paraphernalia.

Police also raided 2 houses in Moo 2, arresting 5 suspects, named as 21 year old Vikrom Kongwiriyakul, 32 year old Narunat Chanthamuwong, 18 year old Chanchai Damrongkaset, a woman named Chantha Hansaithong, and 21 year old Warut Rodphan.

Warut was allegedly found with a bottle containing 500 millilitres of kratom juice. Police also say they seized 150 grams of kratom leaf dregs which are used to boil leaves in order to make the juice. Police charged him with posession of a Category 5 drug.

Police say they confiscated a total of 13 litres of kratom juice from 4 other suspects, which was contained in 10 bottles along with other ingredients and equipment to produce the drug cocktail called ‘4×100.’

All 9 suspects were taken to the Chalong Police Station in which only 1 agreed to undergo drug rehabilitation.

The raids come after the Phuket Provincial Government ordered officers of the Muang District Office to target villages where drugs are prevalent. A spokesman for the government said police will continue to remove drug traffickers from the community while working to improve the quality of local people’s lives so they don’t have to use drugs anymore.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Tourism

Thailand to introduce “area quarantine” for international visitors from April

Maya Taylor

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Thailand to introduce “area quarantine” for international visitors from April | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Andreas M on Unsplash

From next month, foreign visitors to the Kingdom will be able to experience the delights of “area quarantine”, after the government confirmed the scheme for 5 provinces. Following a meeting with the Public Health Ministry, the Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn confirmed that Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya), and Surat Thani (Koh Samui and Koh Pha-ngan) have been chosen to pilot the scheme.

Foreign tourists opting for area quarantine will be required to remain in their hotel rooms for the first 3 days of their stay. They will be tested for Covid-19 and, if negative after 3 days, will be allowed to leave their room and roam freely around the resort for the remainder of their 14-day quarantine. At the end of the 14-day period, they will once again be tested for the virus and, if negative, allowed to travel around the quarantine area.

In order to avail of the scheme, tourists will still need to fulfil the other requirements for travel, including obtaining a Certificate of Entry, a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to travel, and adequate health insurance. Nation Thailand reports that the area quarantine plan will be run by 29 travel agencies, under TAT supervision.

The area quarantine scheme comes as the TAT hails the success of the first “golf quarantine” scheme, which operates in a similar manner. Travellers from countries considered “low-risk” for Covid-19 can come to Thailand for a golf holiday at approved golf resorts in the Kingdom. Conditions are similar to those attached to area quarantine, with the golfers having to spend the first 3 days in their room, test negative for the virus, and then enjoy free rein of the resort, with a few rounds of golf thrown in.

Thailand’s economy has been decimated by the fallout from the pandemic, in particular the loss of international tourism. The current mandatory 14-day quarantine period is seen as the biggest hurdle to overcome in order to re-ignite the sector. In 2019, international tourism contributed 2 trillion baht out of a total 3.01 trillion baht tourism trade. In the same year, tourism made up 17% of Thailand’s GDP.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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