Consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited in Bangladesh, but of course, that didn’t stop people from finding other alternatives! For a long time, people have been drinking cough syrups like Corex and Phensedyl in large quantities, to get high! These cough syrups contain Codeine, a drug derived from Morphine, in high quantities, known for its intoxicating and tranquilizing effects, and as such, attract a shitload of addicts looking to get a kick! The cough syrups were already banned in Bangladesh, however, smugglers, capitalizing on their high demand, had been smuggling them from India across the border, and selling them at nearly 10 times their Indian market price!

bangladesh cough syrup smuggling

However, this month itself, the Indian Government banned the production and marketing of around 350 drugs, including both Phensedyl and Corex! Bangladesh, who had long been urging India to stop the smuggling and production of Phensedyl altogether, greatly welcomed the move. Phensedyl smuggling had been an extremely lucrative business involving numerous gangs operating across the Indo-Bangladesh frontier of over 4,000 km. West Bengal, sharing over 2,200 km of the border with the neighbor, had been a major area of operation for the illegal trade.

This Indian decision will hit a huge cartel of drug smugglers operating on the India-Bangladesh border.

— said Anirban Roy, a former journalist renowned for his huge exposé detailing his uncovering of such cartels. His serial exposé, however, was abruptly stopped when the makers of Phensedyl, Nicholas Piramal, lobbied hard with media managements to stop the publication of the reports. Active in West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura, a raid on one of these cartels, five years ago, had led to the seizure of more than one million bottles of Phensedyl cough syrup.

bangladesh cough syrup smuggling

Picture Source bangladesh cough syrup smuggling

In fact, in 2015, state-run laboratories in West Bengal had found twice the amount of Codeine (21.37 mg/5 ml dosage instead of 10 mg/5 ml) in a batch of Phensedyl bottles, leading to Indian customs suspecting that some batches of Phensedyl were made ‘extra potent’ so that factories in Bangladesh would be able to dilute them and make 10 bottles out of 5 or 7. Although the company had denied any involvement, this had led to a major row between Nicholas Piramal and the Bengal government.

bangladesh cough syrup smuggling

Picture Source bangladesh cough syrup smuggling

Authorities in Dhaka had been severely unhappy about India’s failure in stopping the production and smuggling of these cough syrups into Bangladesh, and so, this drug ban is expected to significantly improve Indo-Bangladesh ties as well. Zokey Ahad, the Bangladesh Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata, said,

It is a most welcome move. Young people in our country were consuming these cough syrups to get intoxicated and prolonged consumption had a disastrous effect on their health.

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