The new drug to hit Turkey is described as a synthetic marijuana—but its effects are much worse. And it’s sweeping the nation like a tornado.
Bonzai (Spice) first arrived in Turkey somewhere between 2009 and2010, when it was marketed as a designer drug. However, it became an epidemic following 2012.
In 2011, 334 people were detained for dealing bonzai. In 2013, that number rose to over 5,500 people.
The drug, which is used mainly by young men, has a low price and is easily available. Activists also point to the use of bonzai in low-income neighborhoods in Istanbul, where they feel they can escape their problems with a cheap high.
Before, bonzai came from Europe to Turkey because the market for marijuana had collapsed following raids on marijuana plantations. When authorities enforced stricter customs controls, it made it harder to smuggle bonzai into Turkey. The drug gangs started putting dangerous chemicals, including insect repellent and hair spray, inside of bonzai, and then selling the drug at a very affordable price.
The news shows young men behaving in a zombie-like fashion, roaming the streets as if they were the walking dead. One image that particularly hit me was of a young man falling down in front of a taxi. Men walk in one direction, only to change direction; then they go back to the original direction. Addicts on the news say that they have tried to quit, but been unable to.
The real danger is that no two kinds of bonzai have the same chemicals. From allegedly rat poison to hair spray, the chemicals are deathly. Nobody knows for sure what those chemicals are.