‘Spice’ girls baffle Mumbai doctors, psychiatrists

Doctors across the city have been receiving cases of teenagers, mainly girls, between 14 and 20 addicted to synthetic weed or Spice, which gives the same high as weed but cannot be identified through tests

Sudeep and Megha Parab noticed a sudden change in the behaviour of their teenaged daughter, Natasha (all names changed), some time back. The 17-year old had bloodshot eyes and she was experiencing sudden mood swings. At times she would be dizzy, and there were instances when she would be constantly irritable.

However, when the Parabs caught her ‘smoking something’, they decided to take matters into their own hands. They hurried to Masina Hospital to seek help from psychiatrist Dr Priyanka Mahajan. All of Natasha’s behavioural signs were that of drug addiction but what baffled the doctors was none of the tests could verify this.

“The Parabs approached me about Natasha’s behavioural problems, a month ago. The kin of another teenager reached out to me with the same problems. This is when we realised what they were consuming was something called synthetic weed or Spice. While this drug gives the same high as weed, it can’t be identified through tests. This type of drug can be much more harmful,” said Dr Mahajan.

This drug is neither freely available nor is it that popular as of now, say doctors, “I would not call this a trend, because it not that accessible for everybody. We are getting cases of youngsters consuming these drugs for the past month or so,” said Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, renowned psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at Grant Medical College, JJ Group of Hospital and Masina Hospital.

Though this drug is relatively new, doctors say the drug is being used by select teenagers, and mainly girls. “I met two girls around the age group 14 to 20 last month. The tests carried out on them have not shown any traces of drug use. According to me, the girls are into the drug what is commonly called as Spice. Some drugs such as mephadrone or Spice cannot be detected through tests. Spice is equally lethal as weed,” said Dr Harish Shetty, consulting psychiatrist at LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai.

Drug rehabilitation centres have also received cases of teenagers who have been using Spice. “Most people who use this drug are those who wouldn’t want their families to know about it. I had attended to one such patient about one month ago. She was addicted to weed in the beginning, but later switched to this synthetic drug. This drug might become popular as it cannot be detected through tests,” said Dr Rohan Jahagirdar, consultant psychiatrist at Chaitanya Deaddiction Centre.

The narcotics department, meanwhile, has not received any complaints with regards to this drug yet. “We have not come across any such complaints as yet. But the situation seems to be alarming if cases are being reported among teenagers between 14 and 20. We will look into this,” said Shivdeep Lande, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC).

Though doctors say this drug has not become a trend yet, the fact that it is consumed more by girls could be because they want to keep their addiction a secret from their families. “I may be wrong but I think this has got to do with the fact that girls are more terrified of their families knowing about their addiction. Peddlers market this drug saying it cannot be detected via tests, and there is no way their kin would know about them using drugs,” explained Dr Mahajan.

The Youth-wing president of Indian Medical Association (IMA)-Maharashtra chapter, Dr. Sagar Mundada said, “The reason it is higher in women could be because men have more access to everything. So when women want to consume it they have to go to sophisticated dealers who may be able to convince them that the tests will not verify the consumption either.”