WEED, amphetamine and methamphetamine are among the plethora of stimulant drugs easily available to partygoers in Penang.
Checks at more than 50 clubs here during peak nightlife hours found scores of scantily-clad women and perfumed men dancing the night away to the rousing beats of the latest club hits blaring from loudspeakers.
Their tables were laden with large bottles of hard liquor and smaller bottles of beer.
However, behind the scenes of this noisy, flashy display is a silent, shadowy exchange of stimulant pills among friends, dancers quietly sucking on Ecstasy pills as they gyrate to the beat of the music and youngsters sitting in corners, lost in their weed-fuelled revelry.
With plenty of drug peddlers providing a steady diet of stimulants to clubbers, the multi-million-ringgit drug business here is kept as lively as Penang’s nightlife itself.
But who are these drug peddlers?
According to one partygoer and businessman, who wished to be known only as “Prem Kumar”, they could be a bartender, an acquaintance or a friend.
“(You can find) random strangers sitting in the corners of dingy clubs, offering drugs,” he told the New Sunday Times at a club here.
He said drug peddlers were usually not addicts themselves, but were in the business for the money.
“They usually start out small, with a small batch of drugs, like amphetamine tablets or Erimin 5, (selling to just) a few people, but eventually, they expand their customer base. It is easy for them to get business as their regulars often also turn into petty drug peddlers selling to their friends.”
Prem said regular drug consumers tended to carry their stash to clubs or parties to consume on their own, or share with friends.
“As soon as the friend is addicted, the regular would become the supplier to the friend, marking up the price to make an income.”
Prem said this made for a big group of drug peddlers out on the streets of Penang.
“There are so many peddlers selling everything — weed, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, ketamine, Erimin 5 and a whole plethora of other drugs. The price varies depending on the quantity and quality. For example, methamphetamine, for one smoker, would cost about RM100.”
Prem said drug peddlers would usually meet their customers outside clubs, especially in out-of-the-way, remote areas, far from prying eyes.
“They will meet you at a park, a parking lot or even your house, to pass you the drugs, so long as it’s not a place with many people.
“In the case of drugs in the form of pills, drug peddlers would wrap them in tissue paper and pass them to their customers discreetly at clubs or pubs,” he said.
However, the general rule of thumb is that peddlers avoided public areas, especially when selling to strangers.
Prem said the biggest form of drug distribution was via peers.
“An addict takes the drugs to a private party or a club, where he shares his stash with friends, telling them how wonderful the drugs made him feel.
“Soon, the friends want to try the drugs, assuming they would be harmless, and before they know it, they are addicted to them.”
Another partygoer, who wished to remain anonymous, said the easy availability of “party drugs” was an open secret here.
“We all know how easy it is to get these drugs, and that is rather scary. If you are a girl partying the night away, you have to be doubly careful because some people could spike your drinks with drugs just for fun, or to take advantage of you.”
She said a common misconception was that all peddlers were men, when, in some cases, they were women.
The partygoer, who works as a model, said to some women, drugs, such as amphetamine and methamphetamine, were desirable, as they helped them to maintain their weight.
“Once you consume these drugs, you are no longer hungry or sleepy, and you have all this energy. Some models take drugs to maintain their weight,” she said, noting that there were many people out there to provide a steady supply.
State narcotics chief Superintendent Maidu Abu Bakar said police were aware of the high number of drug pushers on the streets. However, he said, they had made numerous arrests over the years to eliminate peddlers.
“Drug pushers are nearly impossible to eliminate because there are many popping up to replace those who were arrested.
“This is also why we need the public’s help in giving us information about them,” he said.
Maidu added that in the case of detained pushers on whom the police did not have sufficient evidence to charge under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985 was applied.
In other words, the law will get them in the end. That is, if the drugs don’t do it first.