Shabu…the poor man’s cocaine

SHABU…the poor man’s cocaine

By Apolinario Villalobos



The popularity of shabu as the “poor man’s cocaine” is deeply entrenched in the Philippines.  Cocaine is from a certain plant called “coca” (erythroxylum coca) that for thousands of years has been used by the natives of South America due its substance that could stimulate pleasure, aside from its use as medicine. The insurmountable extent of its influence today is such that it has created millionaires, aside from wrecking the future of the youth and brought havoc to many homes. It was banned in the United States as early as 1914.


The initial “extract” or cocaine base is crudely coaxed from the freshly harvested leaves that are mixed with lime, gasoline, and ammonia, and trod on for about four days in a vat. The “base” is then refined by a larger “laboratory” using acetone, ether, and hydrochloric acid to form crystalline powder or cocaine hydrochloride. In this form, the drug is smuggled throughout the world, including the Philippines via transit points.


Medically, cocaine is used as a local anesthesia due to its ability to block the conduction of feelings by the nerve, aside from constricting blood vessels during an operation. The leaves are still chewed by the natives of the Andes using age-old contraption for the lime powder that lessens the bitterness of the juice. Archaeological digs also showed the use of coca by the natives of Andes mountain range, as an important offering to the gods, especially, to “Mother Earth”.


Many countries fell into to the “coca power” that gave birth to the so-called “narco-politics”. In many countries, not only did it transform obscure personalities into influential millionaires by penetrating the mainstream of the society. In the Philippines, findings lead to the involvement of law-enforcement agents themselves, as well as, lawmakers in this illicit trade. The craving to earn more by trading recycled confiscated drugs out in the streets using “runners” drove some policemen into its trap. It is alleged too, that the election of some politicians into coveted position in the government has been financed by drug lords. But the worst consequence is its invasion of reputable offices, school campuses, and even impoverished homes in slums!


The new president, Rodrigo Duterte has mentioned that unless something is done to put a check on this “epidemic”, the Philippines shall be well within its strangling, deathly grip in about seven years. And, by all means, he is doing his best with the able support of the new Philippine National Police chief, Ronald de la Rosa.


Personally, I see the duo’s effort as some kind of a political will….that, Filipinos have been expecting from the past leaders.



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