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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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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Phuket

Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit

The Thaiger

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Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit | The Thaiger

VIDEO & SCREENGRAB: M Today

The Palang Pracharath member of parliament from Bangkok, Sira Jenjaka, had an argument with Lt Col Pratuang Polmana, Deputy Superintendent of Karon Police during his inspection to the controversial Peak Condominium in the Karon area of Phuket.

MP Sira was surveying the construction site of the project and the sales office, which also serves as a coffee shop, where he saw Lt Col Pratuang inside.

He stopped there and asked why the Deputy Superintendent didn’t send any officer from Karon Police Station to provide security for him, a standard protocol when parliament members visit a specific area.

The MP had publicly stated he had received death threats for revealing ‘problems’ with the ‘paperwork’ for the Phuket condo project that he claims has been built on land without the proper documentation.

Lt Col Pratuang said that he already prepared a team of officers to provide security for the MP but they were waiting for a confirmation. Then the MP asked his team to record a video of the conversation and said that, while he was not threatening anyone, he believed the police must respect and offer protection for a government MP who comes to work in the area, which was then followed by an argument.

There was a “middleman” who eventually separated the Deputy Superintendent and pulled him aside to calm him down. The ‘police whisperer’ then came back to apologise to the MP before they went inside the coffee shop for further private talks.

Read the original article about the allegations against Peak Condominiums in Karon HERE.

Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit | News by The Thaiger

The Peak Condominiums in Karon, currently under investigation after allegations made by Government MP Sira Jenjaka, who claims death threats have been made against him over the matter.

 

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Patong

How to be charged 2,600 baht for having a flat battery in the Jungceylon car park

Tim Newton

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How to be charged 2,600 baht for having a flat battery in the Jungceylon car park | The Thaiger

A rant…

Started off with trying to exit the Jungceylon carpark in Patong, Phuket, late on a Sunday night. After watching a film in their tawdry cinemas, I was assured by ticket sales staff that I should present my ticket stub with the car park card for free exit.

Getting to the exit gate and I was told I had to go to an ‘elevator’ to get my ticket stamped. As there were already three other cars behind me (it was around 9.30pm at this stage), it caused quite a kerfuffle and tempers (mine included) were starting to fray.

The poor woman at the exit booth (whose key work skill must be ‘patience’), kept yelling ‘elevator, elevator’, doing little to inform us what we were actually meant to do. (I wanted to leave a car park, not go on an elevator?!?).

Anyway, minor ‘misunderstanding’ sorted out soon enough, and returned to my car to exit the car park (about 10 minutes later).

A Russian man had had his own adventures with the Jungceylon car park the night before. Firstly he was stuck there on the Saturday night with a flat battery in his white sedan. As it was very late, and wanting to get home, he left the car in the space and took a taxi.

As I was sorting out my own car park ‘misunderstanding’, other car park staff assisted him with his flat battery by jump starting his car. The assisting staff were given a gratuity, I don’t know how much.

But on reaching the exit gate he was told he had to pay 1,800 baht. (Presumably for around 24 hours of car parking).

With his fist full of receipts, around 3,300 baht worth, he was also told ‘elevator, elevator’. He got out of his car, there were another three cars backed up behind him at this stage, and went to find the ‘elevator’. Upon returning he was now told he had to pay 2,600 baht! How the amount had magically inflated to 2,600 baht remains a mystery but the cark park ‘gatekeeper’ was not to be messed with.

By this stage about eight young Thai gentlemen, with name tags, keys hanging from their belts and hand-held radios, had turned up to ‘assist’ in addressing my complaints and ensuring that the Russian man was not able to leave the car park before paying the 2,600 baht. The only common language among the Russians and the Thais in the situation was English and it was not going well.

Google Translate was getting a fine workout but wasn’t really helping.

During the extended ‘negotiations’ the cars behind were detoured around and allowed free exit.

Given the man’s travails in having a flat battery, having to come back to the steamy car park late on a Sunday night, the cars piling up behind him and the loss of face for just about everyone at this stage, the ‘smart’, good PR thing to do would have been to thank him for spending 3,300 baht at their expensive shopping centre, lifted the boom gate and waved him on his way.

But no, these young Thai car park staff wanted their pound of flesh and there was no way in the world that barrier was going to be lifted until the man had paid every baht he ‘owed’. Three police turned up to try and sort things out but all departed in exasperation, knowing the car park staff were being pig-headed but unable to intervene because they would have caused their fellow Thais a loss of face.

At this stage the Thai car park staff were already starting to utter things under their breath and spitting out ‘farang’ in their deliberations.

During the entire two hour drama many other cars had the same issue of not understanding that they needed to report to the bottom of one of the ‘elevators’ to have their receipts stamped. There didn’t appear to be any signage or understanding of the procedure (until, of course, you go through this rather drawn out lesson in Jungceylon car park procedure). There was a sign outside the elusive ‘elevator’ but given there are seven other exits from the car park you’re unlikely to see them.

Apart from Jungceylon losing the patronage of at least two, or more, customers over their overly-officious and unprofessional behaviour, the system will surely remain unfixed waiting for the next stupid ‘farang’ to stroll innocently into the underground farrago.

The only bright light in the dingy car park fiasco was the pleasant young gentlemen sitting at the ‘elevator’ with his stamps and gracious smile, wearing full eye make up and blissfully unaware of the surly car park Nazis. He profusely apologised but I am fairly sure he was none-the-wiser about my lengthy explanation of the situation.

Give the man a pay rise!

For Jungceylon, I would urge better signage, in a few languages (it IS a tourist town), to inform us about their rather opaque car park procedures.

I did ask for a statement to include in this story from some of the ‘people with hand radios’ or a comment from the Manager. But there was none forthcoming. Our forum remains wide open for a response from management.

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Patong

Phuket’s lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety

The Thaiger

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Phuket’s lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Phuket Lifeguard Service

A commemoration ceremony has been held for Prathaiyuth Chuayuan, a local Phuketian who helped drive Phuket’s first beach lifeguard services. He passed away on Friday morning after a heart attack.

He first experienced chest pains whilst delivering his daughter to school in Phuket Town on Friday morning, drove himself immediately to the Vachira Hospital nearby but succumbed to cardiac arrest around 9am.

He was 57 years old.

He worked with Australian lifesavers to help train local lifeguards and improve the skills of the Phuket’s beach enthusiasts, and finally sought international accreditation for the growing body of competent Phuket lifeguards.

The Phuket Lifeguards Service, founded and run by Prathaiyuth and his wife Witanya, saved innumerable lives each year whilst battling Provincial Hall and local government for increased funding in annual contract negotiations.

Daren Jenner, a FOT (Friend of The Thaiger) and local safety officer for the International Surf Lifesaving Association, sent a message to us expressing his deepest condolences to Prathaiyuth’s wife, family and friends.

“I had many good conversations with him over the years. He was a good-hearted man who did his best in difficult and changing circumstances. A very big loss for Phuket and the lifesaving community here. ISLA sends our deepest respect for his long commitment to ocean safety in SE Asia.”

Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger

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