Instagram has done wonders: the world has become a little smaller, and a little more magical. These days, it’s not hard to find beautiful pictures that glorify a life that centers around traveling, learning, and looking stylish while doing it. Traveling abroad has the power to make you more empathetic, and deepen your ability to problem-solve. Plus traveling means meeting all kinds of new and interesting people, so of course, those who love to talk to new people find travel thrilling.
There is a dark side to travel, though, and that is the many dangers that one may encounter. Visiting a country for the first time, particularly without knowing the language at native proficiency, can be risky. While this is not universally the case, tourists can easily find themselves in compromising situations abroad. What’s worse, if drugs are involved, the situation can be more dire. Different countries will, of course, have different penalties concerning use of illicit drugs, and becoming addicted to a drug in another country is extremely dangerous not only to tourists, but to residents as well. Living in a place where addicted or impaired tourists are a common occurence can lead to a rise in theft, altercations, sexual assault, and vandalism.
For tourists abroad, part of the experience may be in trying local drugs. If this is the case, you should be aware and completely knowledgeable of the penalties of using drugs in that country. Jail in countries that are not your native country can be more dangerous than the offense of using the drugs in the first place. Also being aware of what is available, and the side effects is extremely important, especially for someone from another country who is away from their regular doctor or hospital system.
Another reason to be extremely cautious of using drugs in another country is the likelihood that things are not what they seem. What many people do not know is what exists outside of the United States in addition to the drugs about which we hear all the time. Just as is the case here in the US, other countries have synthetic drugs. Synthetic opioids and cannabinoids have been reported for a number of years, and every tourist may not recognize these drugs when they see them. If taken, these drugs may or may not even mirror the effects of their natural counterparts, and put you in an extremely dangerous, vulnerable position. It is always wise to steer clear of anything offered to you by a person whom you do not know, especially in the case of drugs. Use of an unknown drug during your vacation could easily turn into an addiction, or worse, kill you before you can get help.
Russia’s popularity as a tourist destination is due, in part, to its vast, beautiful, and diverse countryside. Far removed from the natural beauty that Russia has to offer are labs where synthetic opioids are manufactured. Natural opioids are dangerously addictive, but synthetic opioids are a relatively new and different kind of danger. One of the synthetic opioids that’s quickly risen to popularity in the Russian drug scene is the drug krokodil. Krokodil is a synthetic opioid, and offers effects that mirror meth or heroin. Krokodil is one of the most distinctive drugs on the world, not just due to the high, but because of the gruesome side effects: the name of the drug is based on frequently-experienced effects on skin at the injection site, and elsewhere on the body. Krokodil has been reported to cause the skin at the injection site to scale, and fall off. Users have experienced open lesions as the drug, which is purely toxic chemicals, circulates, and many people have faced amputation due to gangrene.
Thailand’s reputation as a tourist destination, while not new, has recently exploded thanks, in part, to the accessibility of social media. Beautiful beaches and delicious, wholesome, and inexpensive cuisine drives people away from their own countries to bask in the glory of Thailand. In Thailand, however, lie a few dangerous drugs, including khat. A naturally-occurring opioid stimulant, khat is consumed by chewing the leaves of the khat tree, or steeping them in tea. The user feels a rush of euphoria and energy that could last for several hours. Similar to khat is another natural opioid, kratom. Just as khat does, kratom gives the user a boost of energy, sometimes bordering on hyperactivity, and increased happiness. Kratom is controversial: here in the United States, there is a community of kratom users that stand by its usefulness and good side effects, promoting it as an energy supplement similar to caffeine. The drug remains illegal at the federal level, but there’s no evidence that it’s going away any time soon. Yaba, which means, ‘crazy medicine’ in Thai, is another dangerous drug that you may encounter in another country. This drug is a mixture of meth and caffeine, a combination that can cause extreme hyperactivity, and just-as-extreme crashes. The high is uplifting, appetite-suppressing, and exciting, but can include nausea and vomiting.
China is a global hub of chemicals typically sourced to create synthetic drugs, including extremely dangerous synthetic opioids. A number of the components of synthetic cannabinoids and meth are widely manufactured in China, as are the necessary chemical agents to produce bath salts and its dangerous cousin, Flakka. Flakka is a chemical called a-PVP, and causes extreme highs that include spells of paranoia, violent episodes, and sometimes suicides. Flakka also causes bizarre behaviors: a woman, reportedly high on Flakka, was caught running naked down a street, screaming that she was Satan. Another instance involved a man offering a ride to a women in the car he’d just stolen from her.
Already known for supplying the United States’ never-ending appetite for heroin and meth, Mexico has also begun to offer tourists and their across-the-border customers something even more powerful: synthetic heroin and fentanyl. Fentanyl, though, doesn’t originate in Mexico: most of it is shipped from China, or from China through the United States, where it is then sent to Mexico. While in Mexico, however, pure fentanyl may be mixed with heroin or meth, and marketed as Oxycodone. Pure fentanyl, though, is still sold by Mexican providers on both sides of the border, and offers the same euphoric high as heroin with much less product used.
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