It was around 2am in the morning when Oishee carried out the murders. She began with her father, who was asleep, and then proceeded to stab her mother Swapna who awoke, startled.

Oishee was barely 18 years old. Her 8-year-old brother was asleep next to their mother, who also woke up hearing the commotion, to later witness his mother get stabbed by his own sister.

Her parents’, Police Inspector Mahfuzur Rahman and his wife Swapna Rahman, bloodstained bodies were found in a locked bathroom of their apartment in Dhaka in August 2013. Oishee, surrendered to the police, along with two of her friends and house help. The autopsy report suggested that the couple had died of stabbing, which appeared to have been inflicted by amateurs.  

All of this took place because Oishee’s phone had been seized by her parents on July 31, 2013. After realising that their daughter had an acute drug problem, and was addicted to yaba – an amphetamine that is widely consumed in Bangladesh – they decided to confine her to the house. Frustrated and restricted to her home, she drugged her parents and later killed them in front of her younger brother.

Today, Bangladesh has a staggering seven million drug addicts, with almost four fifths of them addicted to yaba, according to a news report published by the Telegraph. While Oishee’s story stood out as a lone case of cold-blooded murder, what it did manage to do was shed light on what can only be called an epidemic that has taken hold of the country.

Priced at anything between Tk 200 to Tk 500, the pills are accessible and easily available for those who want it and usually it is youngsters that seek the drug. A lot of today’s youth consider the drug to be a ‘recreational’ pill taken on occasion for a prolonged feeling of ‘clarity and concentration’. Zareen Tasnim, a 26 year old professional working at a telco firm, says she first tried the drug at 18 years of age, when she was in high school. “Me and four of my friends treated it just as something fun to do. We didn’t really think much about it. The first time felt great; it gives you incredible clarity, you can concentrate for hours and you just feel like you can do anything you set your mind to,” she explains.

While the high lasted anything from three to four hours, depending on the potency of the pills, she took it a few more times over the years but stopped when she began to realise that her friends had developed a dependency on the pill – one that began to show its signs in the form of irritability, hostility and their inability to tell reality from a delusional and fantastical scenario.

According to Tasnim, despite how taboo the drug is in today’s society, it is widely consumed by youngsters, especially those from the middle and upper middle class rungs of society.

According to a report by the Association for the Prevention of Drug Abuse (Manas) published on December 5, 2017, it was found that every month yaba pills of around Tk 30 crore enter Bangladesh, making the total value of the drug trade stand at a staggering Tk 350 crore per year. Add to that the influx of Rohingyas entering the country, with less control at the border, and the drug trade has intensified further.

While accessibility alone has caused a massive spike in use, why and how has it been so easy for today’s youth to be addicted to this drug? “It’s the lack of recreational activities in schools, colleges and residential areas that has led to this problem,” Dr Satparkash, Director at Prottoy, a leading psychiatry and de-addiction hospital, shares. “There’s also a lack of awareness about the consequences of drug abuse and addiction that drives youngsters to try the drug,” he adds.

According to him, the drug culture in Bangladesh itself has drastically changed over the years. “When I first came to Bangladesh in 2002, the choice of drug was opiate based – such as heroine and phensedyl, but today, I rarely get patients who abuse these drugs. Most addicts are abusing amphetamines such as yaba. While all drugs are deadly, yaba, also known as the ‘crazy drug’ is actually driving people crazy.”

When it comes to achieving sustainable sobriety, Dr Satprakash feels that a patient can make the transition from treatment to recovery only if they complete their treatment, but most patients don’t, because of which the relapse rate is very high. “In my center, the success rate stands at 90% for patients that complete their treatment.”

While yaba, amphetamines and heroine is being used in the country, Dr Satprakash believes that the use of cannabis is also rising in popularity. “Cannabis has been a popular drug of choice for years now. People don’t really consider it to be a harmful substance and that is completely incorrect.”

28-year-old Nayeema Khan would beg to differ. “I honestly don’t think marijuana is a drug. I’ve been taking it, recreationally might I add, since 2008, and I’ve never felt dependent on it, so it really doesn’t seem like a harmful drug.” Although she used to take marijuana in the past, she stopped the use after quitting smoking, but still doesn’t feel that the drug was in anyway harmful.

Anik Kabir, another addict who was hooked on yaba, believes that, “the real harm in drugs lies in the necessity for it in the everyday.” He spent nearly one year in rehab at Bangladesh Rehabilitation and Assistance Center for Addicts (BARACA) a non-government, voluntary and non-profitable organisation, which provides treatment & rehabilitation, awareness programs, harm and risk reduction, VCT (Voluntary Counselling & Testing) for the drug dependent individuals.

Taking at least one to two pills every day, prior to him joining rehab, he tells us that the problem doesn’t lie in the fact that drugs are easily accessible or that they are affordable. “Society and culture play a big role in pushing us to try drugs. I really feel that society makes it very difficult for us to find an outlet for our problems – whatever they may be. As a result of this, we seek a way to find solace, and it’s usually much easier to chase a pill than it is to talk to a family member and that was my case.”

Kabir says that his time at rehab was a life changing experience for him – for the better. He spent a lot of time in the outdoors, in recreational activities such as playing football and going fishing in the surrounding area where the massive rehab centre is located.

The cases vary from one person to another, perspective changes in the process. Some are a cautionary tale, while others are very aware of their limits. Given the facts, one remains above all: we, as a society, have not done enough to keep the youth engaged in appropriate activities that guide them to a better understanding of their surroundings. The growth for most have been halted because of the lack of interest and investment of extra-curriculars for those seeking to remain on the safer path.