A drug derived from the same poppy plant that produces heroin and opium and is primarily used among the South Asian population has attracted the attention of the Abbotsford Police.
Const. Ian MacDonald said police have been hearing more about the sale and use of doda – an opiate in the form of a fine powder that is most commonly consumed in tea or hot water – in about the last 18 months.
“We have talked to people who are addiction counsellors and they are saying they are seeing an increase, particularly among youth, of addictions to doda,” he said.
Last Thursday, the Abbotsford Police completed their first doda investigation, when the bike squad arrested two men – ages 48 and 51 – for selling what was believed to be the drug.
Balbir Randhawa, a multi-cultural therapist with Abbotsford Addiction Center, said doda is known to be used within the Indo-Canadian community in Abbotsford, but she has seen few clients seeking help for this issue.
She believes this is because doda does not produce the same violent or criminal behaviours that can come from other addictions, such as alcohol or heroin, and, in that way, is more comparable to marijuana use.
“It’s more of a quiet addiction,” she said.
But it’s not without its problems. Doda users can face job loss, financial difficulties, health issues and family problems, Randhawa said.
Kelly Chahal, public relations director for the Abbotsford-based Fraser Valley Indo Canadian Business Association, said research needs to be funded to determine if the use and sale of doda is an emerging issue or simply one that has received more attention recently because of its unfamiliarity.
Either way, she said the production, use and sale of known and newer substances must be taken seriously.
“Future concerns for us are the development of pro-criminal activities associated with substance misuse,” she said.
MacDonald said Abbotsford Police began a two-month investigation in July after concerns were expressed by “South Asian community leaders” that doda was being sold in the city.
Undercover officers arranged three separate meetings to purchase doda, and the last one resulted in the arrests of two men at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the vicinity of Cedar Park Place – where one of them works a business – at the corner of South Fraser Way and Clearbrook Road.
Both men face charges of drug trafficking, while one faces an additional charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking. Both are due in court in late October and cannot be named until they are formally charged.
MacDonald said police were surprised when they tested the substance found on one of the men and discovered it was not doda, but opium. He said it is not yet known if the men who were arrested knew they were selling the more-potent drug or whether they believed it was doda, a derivative of opium.
Doda is a fine powder which is made by grinding the husks and seeds of the poppy plant. It contains morphine and codeine.
Opium is drained from the seed pods of mature poppies and is sold as a powder or dark-brown solid that is smoked, eaten or injected.
Last August, two men – one of them from Abbotsford – were arrested in a seven-acre poppy field in Chilliwack where 60,000 plants were being grown. The field was believed to be the largest crop of its kind ever located by police in Canada.
Tehal Singh Bath, 32, of Abbotsford and Mandeep Singh Dhaliwal, 30, of Mission were both charged with production of a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking. Their trial is scheduled to begin May 28 in Chilliwack.