Turkey not a station but a target market for bonzai drug: Professor
Gülden AYDIN ISTANBUL
A group of people from Turkey’s ‘Green Crescent’ organization hold a street protest against bonzai, a chemical-based and cheap drug that has claimed the lives of several young people recently. DHA PhotoTurkey, long a way station on the drug route to Europe, has now become a market country for the latest craze of bonzai, which is being sold cheaply on the streets, according to a psychiatrist working on the issue.
“The deadly chemical synthetic drug was produced at laboratories in Europe in 1998. It arrived in Turkey 10 years later, but it has spread very rapidly in the last two years,” Arif Verimli said. Turkey’s authorities recently launched an action plan against the spread of drugs such as bonzai. Last month, in the Bayramtepe neighborhood of Istanbul, locals hit the street after young people died after taking bonzai. A single-use dose of bonzai is as cheap as 2 Turkish Liras, and, according to locals, children as young as 8 or 9 are now using it.
“[Bonzai] is sold in colorful packages that look like wet tissues. Cannabinoids, the chemical synthetic, is a nuclear bomb that was captured by evil-minded people in development labs,” Verimli said.
The first bonzai incident was seen in 2008 in Turkey, he said.
“Turkey used to be country on the drug routes. But now it has turned into a market itself. The source of the bonzai is the West, but I now think that it is also produced in Turkey,” he said.
Some media reports have said Turkish drug dealers were producing bonzai, even using insecticides.
The professor said it has now become customary to compare bonzai with regular marijuana, which is concerning. “Both are harmful and illegal,” he added.
“Every such substance has a ‘honeymoon’ period,” he said. “Bonzai reaches the ‘award center’ of the brain more rapidly due to its chemical structure. The user feels rewarded. But then the days we call ‘x day’ comes as structural changes in the brain begin. This period is very short with bonzai,” he said.
The production of the bonzai is easy and hard to prevent since it is not grown in fields but in labs, the professor noted.
“It is produced more secretly, marketed rapidly and it is very cheap. A package is around 5 liras. The lower segment of society can access it anytime,” he said, noting that the users are usually from lower- or middle-income groups.
Users are usually aged between 13 and 26 when they start the drug, he said.
Families usually detect that their kids are using bonzai in the second year.
A.Y., a 29 year-old bonzai addict, told daily Hürriyet that he started using marijuana in 2003 and switched to bonzai five year later when he moved to Istanbul. Now he is being treated by Verimli.
“Two of my friends died beside me,” he said. “We gave them cardiac message but they did not survive.
I know four people who have died of bonzai in [Istanbul’s] Altınşehir [neighborhood] in one-and-a-half months.”