My neighbors are kinda creeping me out.
February 15, 2007 4:13 AM   Subscribe

Why are the scetchy dudes who live downstairs throwing away hundreds of empty boxes of painkillers?

I'm currently living in Jaipur, India, in the home of a woman who rents out her downstairs to "paying guests". The part of the house we live in is not at all connected to the downstairs-- we enter by going up a detached stairway.

Two new guys moved in a couple of weeks ago; I don't know anything about them, except that they aren't students like the previous renters were. They unloaded several huge desks; when I asked Bhabhiji, the landlady, if they were running some kind of business, she said no. One afternoon the two men came into our part of the house and spent a good fifteen minutes yelling back and forth with Bhabhiji; I don't speak enough Hindi to have any idea what it was about, and no explanation was offered.

The other day I noticed a huge open trashbag on the front patio. It stood out because there is no trash pickup around here, and most places don't even have trash cans (who needs garbage disposal when you have the street?). It was completely full of small, torn open cardboard boxes that say ROSPIN-DS on them, and in smaller print, "Diclofenac Potassium, Paracetamol & Serratiopeptidase Tablets."

I gather that this is some kind of OTC painkiller, but I can't fathom why they're using so much of it. Would they be repackaging it for some reason? Or using it to synthesize something else? I'm dying of curiosity.
posted by bookish to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Meth lab.
posted by vanoakenfold at 4:30 AM on February 15, 2007

It's an anti-inflammatory, and I doubt it will be being used to synthesise meth, which involves phosphorous and ephedrine. Whether it is used in the creation of some other drug, I do not know, though it seems unlikely that any of the ingredients are of any use to other kinds.

That said, if you have any cause to suspect people in the same building (nay street) as you are synthesising drugs, I would try and have the authorities look into it. I may be on the whole a libertarian, but these things are best kept off the streets, the money best kept away from the people running the labs, and even more importantly they can blow up big time.
Anonymity might be a good call though.

A meth lab explosion downstairs from you would really have to suck!
posted by opsin at 4:46 AM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

It also seems unlikely that they would be using these drugs straight to get high, as the ingredients mentioned are not that kind of painkiller. An NSAID and an anti-inflammatory enzyme... Cough medicine bottles is one thing, but this seems otherwise faierly innocuous.
They don't have some group of elderly relatives locked up in there do they?
posted by opsin at 4:49 AM on February 15, 2007

Repackaging them as an entirely different med for sale over the internet.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:52 AM on February 15, 2007

Could they have stolen a lot of free samples intended to be distributed by doctors?

If there are enough, they might intend to repackage and sell them, but if there are just a few hundred or so, they could just be reducing the bulk of their stash of stolen painkillers by getting rid of the packaging and dumping them all in a jar.
posted by pracowity at 5:57 AM on February 15, 2007

Crushing them up, to cut with MDMA or cocaine. It tastes and smells the same, and can halve their costs per gram.
posted by the_epicurean at 5:59 AM on February 15, 2007

Strange substance to cut it with, shouldn't dry milk be cheaper?

In any case stay out of their business, it may be the best thing for your own personal health.
posted by geoff. at 6:18 AM on February 15, 2007

I'm with epi on this one but I am sure that all of the posts might have some glimmer of being possible. Question is, do you think the land lady is on the take? If you are really curious just call over to the police station and ask them. I am sure they will research an answer and cut your risk of becoming a drug casuality in at least half.
posted by bkeene12 at 6:25 AM on February 15, 2007

IANADD but I reckon it's to cut with an illegal drug. Dry milk certainly would be cheaper but a dead giveaway if the user were to taste, at least painkillers are going to have a chemically taste. Report them anonymously if you can, but I'm with geoff... stay out of their business for your own sake.
posted by twistedonion at 6:29 AM on February 15, 2007

Crushing them up, to cut with MDMA or cocaine. It tastes and smells the same, and can halve their costs per gram.

posted by desuetude at 6:43 AM on February 15, 2007

MDMA does not taste or smell like cocaine. The two substances are also usually different colours in powder form.

Aside from that I agree with the general principles described above - at least painkillers do have a chemical taste, whereas glucose or milk powder is more easily recognisable as such.
posted by skylar at 6:46 AM on February 15, 2007

Repackaging them as an entirely different med for sale over the internet.

That seems about right to me but also passing them off loose on the streets as a "generic version" of an APAP containing narc like Percocet is also possible.
posted by The Straightener at 7:37 AM on February 15, 2007

Those pills are basically for back or arthritis pain. You say cardboard boxes - were the pill jars present as well?

My suspicion is not "meth lab" but rather "selling Indian drugs to Americans who can't afford to fill their arthritis prescriptions at home". Are they mailing packages?

Still... I suppose that the mild drifting feeling that one gets with serious OTC painkillers could be a good complement to narcotic drugs of some kind. Either way, it sounds like you should make some anonymous phone calls to the police, and then stay out of your apartment for a few days.
posted by jellicle at 8:50 AM on February 15, 2007

Evacuate the area immediately on foot. Sketchy-looking circumstances involving boxes full of drugs rarely have an entirely wholesome explanation. It's hard to see how this particular situation doesn't relate to some breach of the law, whether it's peddling blow, repackaging OTC drugs for Internet resale, or passing them off as some other more expensive prescription med. And if Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that with drugged-up neighbors, sooner or later you'll accidentally pick up a duffel bag full of their heroin and then you'll be pursued through the streets by vengeful mobs of thugs and hired killers, until you make common cause with a sexy hitwoman. Is that the kind of life you want to lead?
posted by Midnight Creeper at 9:06 AM on February 15, 2007

Diclofenac Potassium is an NSAID (a painkiller in the general family of ibuprofen), Paracetamol & SerratiopeptidaseParacetamol is acetaminophen or Tylenol, and Serratiopeptidase is an enzyme with claimed effects for inflammation and a variety of other conditions. None of them appear to have any place in illegal drug manufacture. I think that either re-packaging as who knows what, or simply reselling in some sort of online "pharmacy" scheme is the most likely explanation. It could just be the cheapest proper-looking pills they had ready access to, soon to travel to all corners of the earth to enlarge penises, combat erectile disfunction and disappoint vicodin fans. Reconsider your living arrangements if they ask to borrow your blender.
posted by nanojath at 9:32 AM on February 15, 2007

And if Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that with drugged-up neighbors, sooner or later you'll accidentally pick up a duffel bag full of their heroin and then you'll be pursued through the streets by vengeful mobs of thugs and hired killers, until you make common cause with a sexy hitwoman. Is that the kind of life you want to lead?

Now that you mention it, yes.
Can I have your apartment bookish?

Because, unless you have experience with this sort of thing, you should leave. I don't know if the police there are anything like in the US, but a drug raid going into your apartment by mistake is as dangerous as the operation downstairs. While you may live there for years without anything happening, the odds something very bad WILL happen are too great to consider if you can avoid it.

/don't really want the apartment, thanks
posted by IronLizard at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2007

I don't know, I've seen stranger things in India and thought nothing of it. That's not to say this isn't a hint of something illegal and/or dangerous going on... but -- short of moving -- what can you do?
posted by nitsuj at 11:26 AM on February 15, 2007

Diclofenac potassium is sold by Novartis under the trade name "Cataflam" (most disgusting drug name ever, by the way, what marketer came up with that?) for arthritis.

Serratiopeptidase seems to be used by some people for back pain.

And Paracetamol is just another name for what we call Tylenol.

It's possible that what they're doing is legal (in India). I suspect a number of things, besides those already mentioned (using it to cut drugs with -- but in that case, why use other drugs instead of a neutral buffer?). They could be mixing them all together to make some sort of 'patent medicine,' which they're selling, either domestically or over the Internet, as a pain elixir of sorts. Alternately, they could be involved in the manufacture of counterfeit meds; grinding up cheap painkillers and making them into pills that resemble other drugs, which are sold on the Internet or introduced into the legit distribution stream.

I actually have more of a problem with this last activity than I do the more straightforward illegal-drug trade. I really don't have a big probem with people making or doing drugs per se, but I'd hang, draw, and quarter anyone involved in counterfeit medicine production, were it up to me -- those things kill people who aren't in any way involved, and also causes lots of legit (beneficial) medication to be wasted, when the supply chain gets "flushed" to remove counterfeits.

If you trust the authorities in your area, I'd notify them that something shady is going on. Don't imply anything that you don't know, just tell them what you saw, and let them act on it. Anonymously, if possible. If it's legit, these guys will be fine, if it's illegal drugs, they'll be crushed by an unfair system, and if it's counterfeit drugs, you'll have done the world a favor by removing two scumbags.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:31 PM on February 15, 2007

I vote for moving as soon as possible, and not getting involved. They may leave you alone, they may not get raided by the police, but are you willing to take that risk?
posted by Joh at 1:08 PM on February 15, 2007

They're turning pure drugs to cut.
posted by aerotive at 1:29 PM on February 15, 2007

I wouldn't necessarily panic to the extent others seem to be saying you should, but if you have any reason to suspect the police are at all corrupt in your neighborhood/city you should stay out of it. You're a foreigner, and can't quite fade into the background the way an Indian resident can. Weigh your options carefully. If you feel unsafe moving would likely be a better option (especially since, as you say, you can't speak much Hindi, and thus are unable to overhear things that would explain suspicious activity or give you cues as to how safe/unsafe your situation is).
posted by soviet sleepover at 3:06 PM on February 15, 2007

Thanks guys! There seem to be several possible explanations for the drug cache downstairs. I don't intend to snoop around for more information, because clearly that is not in my best interests; so it seems that, barring further incidents, this will have to remain a mystery.

I'm not about to call the cops. Whatever it is, it's not a major opperation, and, if my experience with police in the country has been in any way representative, a) they won't speak enough English to really communicate with me and b) my complaint will not be taken seriously. I've never felt like I'm in danger living upstairs, so I think it's best to let it be. I'll be out of here in a couple of weeks anyways.
posted by bookish at 7:50 PM on February 21, 2007

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