Sun, 01 Oct 2000

'Shabu-shabu': Indonesia's new drug craze

By David Gordon

JAKARTA (JP): When Doyok, the comedian, was caught for the possession of shabu-shabu (crystal methamphetamine), many Indonesians gasped with surprise! This was then shortly followed by the arrest of Maya Ari Sigit, also in relation to shabu-shabu.

Many asked, "Why do people use shabu-shabu? Is that not insane?" Yes, it is insane.

And that is the nature of drug use, abuse and addiction.

If you look closely at recent "reported events" surrounding shabu-shabu, you will begin to gain a truer understanding of just how insidious this drug is and has become. Look at the names of the people who have been arrested for possession of shabu-shabu. Look at the "families" some of these individuals come from. Look at their positions, status and notoriety in our society.

Ex-presidents' granddaughters and nephews, generals' and high- ranking military officers' children, famous television celebrities, rock and roll entertainers and stars, even children from Indonesia's most prestigious and prominent business families.

While putauw (heroin) still remains the leading "drug of choice" with drug abusers in Indonesia, shabu-shabu has become Indonesia's second most popular "drug of choice" with drug abusers and drug addicts.

What is shabu-shabu?

Amphetamines were discovered in the late 1800's, yet did not become "marketable" until the 1930's, when Benzedrine (bennies) was introduced by the pharmaceutical industry to "counter low blood pressure". Dexedrine was then introduced in the 1950's for hunger-suppression and mood elevating.

Other brands of amphetamines then flooded the market, such as Methedrine and Dexamyl.

By the late 1960's everyone who was anyone, was "eating whites / bennies and doing speed". The "speed rage" was "in". Cocaine was "in", speed in all its forms was "in", being "up" was "in"!

Mostly people fell into two categories, either they liked "uppers" or they liked "downers" (the trippers, meanwhile, mostly did psychedelics).

Methamphetamine and cocaine were considered very "in" from the late 1960's to the late 1980's. And, there were multiple forms of methamphetamine and cocaine (some of the names used were crank, speed, bennies, rock, crystal, crack, meth, and others).

Right around 1990, shabu-shabu / ice (methamphetamine) hit the streets worldwide. Shabu-shabu is two to three times more potent than most other amphetamines. This drug delivered, and generated a superb resurgence into the "speed market."

Shabu-shabu lasted longer and produced a far better high than most other forms of speed. It took over as the "drug of preference" for those who liked the "speed scene". The use, and misuse, of shabu-shabu has been climbing steadily for a full decade now notwithstanding that it has always been considered a very dangerous and damaging illicit drug.

But, if you want to have more energy and power, use shabu- shabu. If you want to stay up for 24 to 48 to 72 hours, use shabu-shabu. If you want to have a (much) longer and better sexual experience, use shabu-shabu. If you want to think clearer and feel smarter, use shabu-shabu. If you want to get off heroin, use shabu-shabu The "gay scene" loves shabu-shabu. The junior executives and the executive scene love shabu-shabu. If you want to take weight off, use shabu-shabu.

Females (and males) who want to keep their figures slim and trim love shabu-shabu. These are some of the most common reasons given by people who are know to "frequent the use and misuse of shabu-shabu."

Yet, not many people understand the downside of this drug. If you love being paranoid for no reason, use shabu-shabu. If you want to lose your short-term learning abilities and concentration, use shabu-shabu. If you want to burn your brain cells so that you become psychotic, use shabu-shabu.

Yes, if you want to end up in a mental hospital for the rest of your life, use shabu-shabu.

Often people use combinations of uppers and downers, to achieve a better high. Yet, in Indonesia "speedballing" has not become a "rage" as of yet.

Speedballing is using a combination of methamphetamine and heroin. This is a very dangerous high, and will shortly catch on in Indonesia!

Methamphetamine hit the streets of Indonesia full blast in 1996, and has been growing in popularity with the "drug culture" since. Generally shabu-shabu is smoked. But more and more people are tending to "shoot" (inject) shabu-shabu these days.

Shabu-shabu can be smoked, snorted or injected -- the same is true with Heroin. Injectable liquid shabu-shabu is still limited in Indonesia, although liquid amphetamines may be found if one has connections and money.

However, soon injectable liquid shabu-shabu will be plentiful, which will greatly increase the risk, and spread, of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C throughout our country. Currently in the Greater Jakarta (Jabotabek) area, individuals who are using needles are now testing in excess of 80 percent positive for Hepatitis C, and in excess of 15 percent positive for HIV/AIDS. This "nightmare" of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis is without doubt the greatest threat to our younger generation today!

Please remember, the world today co-exists along with, and within, a "drug culture". Millions upon millions of people, young / adults / middle aged / and older, use drugs, abuse drugs, and are addicted to drugs. And, there is hardly what anyone would call "gender discrimination" within the world of drugs today.

Shabu-shabu is far more dangerous than heroin in many ways. Long term use and abuse of shabu-shabu adversely affects the central nervous system, causes depression and lethargy, heart and blood vessel toxicity, and very often causes extreme and severe paranoia. Suicidal depressive tendencies are very common with someone using shabu-shabu. Overdoses do occur, and people do die from shabu-shabu although heroin is still the leader in the "drug overdose stakes".

Violence and brutality is far more common with shabu-shabu, than putauw. We are observing a rapid increase in shabu-shabu related incidents of violence in Indonesia currently. This will significantly increase over the coming years.

Detoxification from shabu-shabu takes a few days longer than putauw. Still, detoxification is hardly as "difficult" as most people think, or believe. It just takes a few days longer for first stage detoxification. With a decent set and setting, and individuals who understand the detoxification process, first stage detoxification from shabu-shabu takes approximately between five and eight days. WARNING: Do not use Rapid Detoxification (Naltrexone) with shabu-shabu abusers / addicts. This method of detoxification does absolutely nothing for anyone detoxing from "speed". And Naltrexone is also hepatotoxic (poisonous) for anyone with any form of active Hepatitis!

Large quantities of shabu-shabu are now being manufactured in Indonesia! The ingredients to manufacture shabu-shabu are easily found anywhere in the country. And shabu-shabu is easy to produce. You can manufacture it in something as small as a briefcase! The cost of a gram of the drug ranges from Rp 300,000 to 750,000, depending on quality!

Also, shabu-shabu may be easily be found throughout our Indonesian school system -- beginning from the junior high school level upwards on the island of Java presently. Shabu-shabu can now easily be found in quantity throughout most of the country and follows the same trafficking routes as putauw.

Shabu-shabu is here to stay -- little can be done to change this fact. Drugs are now, unfortunately, part of our Indonesian culture. Education will henceforth become the greatest weapon in our armory in the "battle against drugs". Learn as much as you can as quickly as you can, and share this information as freely and openly as you can!

* The writer is program director of the Harapan Permata Hati Kita Foundation.