The Americans are worried. A new “drug” has penetrated their shores and teens are getting hooked to it. Such is the danger that the state of Ohio might one day decide to ban this new stimulant. No, it is not methamphetamine coming in from Mexico or opium from the Golden Triangle. It is gutka – a mixture of crushed betel nut, tobacco, slaked lime and other stimulants.
Yes, this product that almost 65 million Indians consume daily. Reports in the American media say that law enforcement officials in Ohio are alarmed by the increasing numbers of teenagers who are “getting high” on betel nut, basically gutka or chewing tobacco.
The police says that the “substance” has been illegally imported to Columbus city in Ohio from either Nepal or India. They even found a store selling gutka packets for a very low price. And do you know which brand they were selling? Tulsi. After an inspection, the store discarded all the gutka packets. Officials are scanning the entire region for more packets of what they call betel nut.
It is true that consumption of gutka causes oral cancer.
This is why the sale of gutka is banned in many Indian states. The betel nut, also known as areca nut, has been found to contain arecoline, a carcinogenic psychoactive ingredient similar to nicotine. It is one of the key ingredients in the gutka.
Yet the use of betel nut is widespread in South and Southeast Asian nations, where it is linked to culture and tradition.
For thousands of years, betel nuts have been used in traditional events and for normal consumption by both the elite and the hoi polloi of the societies in the region.