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News (Media Awareness Project) - Pakistan: Experimenting With Drugs: The Sting In The Tale
Title:Pakistan: Experimenting With Drugs: The Sting In The Tale
Published On:2011-09-18
Source:Express Tribune, The (Pakistan)
Fetched On:2011-09-20 06:01:42
EXPERIMENTING WITH DRUGS: THE STING IN THE TALE

Umer Gul could very easily pass for just another addict on the
unforgiving streets of Karak in Khyber-Paktunkhwa. Dressed in a filthy
shalwar kameez and scratching his nose, he wanders aimlessly.
Suddenly, he stops short, stares at nothing in particular then starts
mumbling to himself.

Eight years ago he was quite different -- a well-dressed, cheerful
young man with a bright future ahead of him. But even that sad story
is one that a great deal of addicts and their families could identify
with.

"Umer used to be a clerk in the army," says his brother Muhammad
Younas. "He would smoke a little hashish now and then with his
friends, but I never thought that it was a big deal."

What's different about this story is Umer's choice of drug. According
to his family, Umer lost his mental health the day he and his friends
smoked a scorpion. Yes, you heard that right -- a scorpion. The
evil-looking arachnid with pincers and a poisonous sting at the end of
its tail.

Umer was never the same again. "He left his job and started indulging
in bizarre and unusual habits," says Younas.

Since the family could not afford to treat him, they let Umer wander
around the city. "He is harmless. He spends most of his time aimlessly
walking around," they are quick to point out.

Umer's family blames the scorpion for robbing their son of his mental
health. "Scorpions are highly toxic," Younas claims. "That is why my
brother is like this."

Umer is not alone. There are numerous others who are involved in this
practice, claiming to be on the quest for the ultimate high. But even
for the self-styled Nashayee Ustad (Drug Master), Mohammad Tofail,
scorpion smoking is something to be wary of. "When I first smoked
scorpion mixed with charas (hashish) I had a huge out-of-body
experience," recalls the 47-year-old Tofail. "I couldn't understand
what was happening."

The experience made him swear off scorpion smoking for good, "My body
and mind were over-stimulated. My friends later told me that I spent
60 minutes shouting and crying. I decided that I would never touch the
stuff again."

But exactly how do you smoke scorpions in the first
place?

"The process for preparing a scorpion for smoking is quite
time-consuming," Tofail explains. "The dead scorpion must first be put
out in the sun to dry for a few days. It is vital that you keep it
away from ants and other insects. When the scorpion is dry, it is
crushed with tobacco and mixed with hashish; only then can it be smoked."

By and large, health experts are unaware of this alarming trend, and
unsure of its effects on the human body. The exception is Dr Mohammad
Shoaib Marwat, Chief Medical Officer at the Karachi Dock Labour Board.
Marwat has witnessed scorpion smoking first-hand and believes it is a
common practice in many areas of the country. "I have seen numerous
people smoking dried scorpions in chillums [a straight conical clay
pipe used to smoke tobacco or drugs]," says Marwat. "But I am unsure
of its effects on the human body since there has been no relevant
research in this matter." Across the border, India has been
experiencing a similar trend. Their choice of poison is the common
house gecko, better known as the chipkali. "These lizards are roasted
over a flame and then ground into a fine powder. The lizard powder is
mixed with opium and used as a drug," explains Marwat. Many claim that
the dried lizard augments the sedating effect of the opium, thus
leading to a superior high.

Marwat says that scorpions do not have any of the intoxicating or
sedative chemicals that are present in cannabis or hashish. "Scorpion
venom contains an acidic fluid which causes irritation when the
scorpion bites somebody," Marwat explained. "If it contained sedatives
or anaesthetics, it would sedate the place where it bit rather than
causing pain." The doctor speculated that the scorpion could have some
substance in its limbs or abdomen which may have sedative effects but
as there was no research or written material on this topic, he could
not claim anything. The lack of research also made it impossible to
determine if it was indeed smoking dried scorpion that had altered the
mental balance of individuals. "We can't say for sure that a man
becomes mentally ill after smoking scorpions. But perhaps scorpion
smoking was a trigger for his mental illness. He could have become
mentally unstable from excessive smoking of hashish or using other
drugs and injections".

Drug addicts are on a constant quest for the ultimate high. Those who
can afford to, consume designer drugs and those who can't make do with
hashish, scorpions and geckos.
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