By Kabeer Yousuf -
MUSCAT — It may not be a drug or psychotropic substance although it gives mild intoxication to the user, but it can induce the youth to try better ones over a period of time. It is a candy or a chewing gum available in almost all the shops near schools in Oman and in shady areas where youngsters frequent.
This wouldn’t cost you much but just 100 baisa for a small unit or pouch. It’s nothing but Afdhal, a silent killer that is slowly but gripping on among the youth which can produce nothing but a generation next whose brain is pawned for drugs in pursuit of instant, material pleasures.
It may or may not sound to be silly to pen words against a simple candy loved by our children. But the menace of Afdhal or the pre-drug has been catching up fast in the society.
Known among our youth by a variety of names such as ‘Afdhal’, ‘Strawberry Quick’ and ‘Crystal Meth’, these are chewable tobacco candies which have multiple impacts on the individual, family and the society as a whole.
“Chewable tobacco in the form of candies is widely available in shops around colleges and schools in Oman. The health problems include increased heart rate and blood pressure which leads to heart attack or stroke.
“Heart attack and stroke happen because the arteries constrict; there is an increased risk of blood clots; both of these effects are caused by the nicotine. And above all, it leads to other banned drugs and addiction,” doctor Amira al Raaidan, Psychiatry Resident and Chairperson of Al Hayat Association for raising community drug awareness told the Observer.
These Afdhal, the pre-drugs are seemingly candies or pop rocks. Even meth crystals can also look and taste like chocolate, peanut butter or cola. Authorities do confirm that meth can be found in these forms. In 2007-2008, this was called a myth, but recently, new warnings resurface.
It’s called a pre-drug coz they are very light but will also induce youngsters to try more and more.
They are named ‘Strawberry Quick’ in the shops mostly around colleges and schools. Drug dealers sell “Strawberry Quick”, crystal meth, which smells and looks like strawberry candy. Just like some of the baby foods have anabolic steroids that make babies fat, some of the chocolates are also suspected to have some agents as ingredients that induce in them an urge to have over and again. The onus lies with the Sultanate’s drug control authority to have thorough checks on such suspicious candies and chocolates.
“It’s high time that we need to eradicate this Afdhal, the pre-drug from our society”, Khalfan al Toki, an active social worker and a retired service personnel said. “Parents from all communities really urge the authorities to stop such a pre-drug to which our children are innocuously falling prey to. If not now, I wonder when we are going to act against these shops who sell these kinds of candies”, Khalfan asks, adding “Although these are banned in the country, these candies and other tobacco products are widely available in some shops”.
Now the onus is on to the Royal Oman Police and the Muscat Municipality to conduct random check at various shops on the outskirts of the city and in the shady areas as well as along the groceries around our schools and colleges. Suspicious looking strangers near schools are also said to be the carriers of these candies.
Let our authorities keep vigil for at the end of the day, it is for our next generation.
The increase of drug addiction cases in the Sultanate is on an alarming note and the number of people is increasing 30 per cent average among men and the age brackets vulnerable to drug addiction are boys between 16 and 25 years, according to the Ministry of Health statistics.
In a report from Ibn Sina Hospital case registry for detected cases, there has been as many as 1,945 cases registered from 2006 to 2011.
The cases not reported to the only hospital and are still continuing to walk with the lethal habit is not included in this figures. It can be split as year 2006 (271), 2007 (279), 2008 (281), 2009 (326), 2010 (365), 2011 (423). What is more shocking is that the lion’s portion in these categories is our youth between the age brackets of 20-30 years. It also includes a large number of girls as well.
It is said that there are 28 different chemicals in snuff that are considered carcinogens or cancer-causing agents. Research has shown that there is actually more nicotine in a plug of chewing tobacco than in a cigarette. In addition, there are chemicals such as formaldehyde and arsenic in snuff. Even without considering other chemicals the nicotine alone should be enough of a reason to stop chewing tobacco.