Car parts stolen in Africa crushed and sniffed like drugs


“Are we engines or are we humans?” : Anti-drug director on growing problem with people inhaling car exhaust filters on the ground

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A new craze for a drug derived from crashed vehicle exhaust filters is rocking authorities in Congo’s capital Kinshasa, sparking a campaign to eradicate the concoction and a wave of auto part thefts.

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In August, police rounded up and marched nearly 100 suspected drug dealers and users bomb , which means “powerful” in the local Lingala language, following a call to action launched by the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Félix Tshisekedi. “This social phenomenon calls for a collective responsibility of the whole nation,” Tshisekedi told ministers at a weekly meeting.

In an abandoned hut on the outskirts of Kinshasa, a young man in search of oblivion opens a bag of brown powder, mixes it with a few pills crushed using the back of a spoon, before snorting the “bomb” mixture. , with his friends. Within minutes, the trio are slowly rocking, scratching in a catatonic state that Congolese experts say can cause users to sit still for hours or sleep for days.

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“We used to drink really strong whiskey… we were restless and hurting people,” said Cedrick, a 26-year-old gang leader in a white designer shirt. “But with the bomb, it calms you down, you get tired, you stay somewhere standing or sitting for a very long time. When you’re done, you go home without disturbing anyone.

Car owners, police and drug experts aren’t that optimistic. The brown powder is obtained by grinding the ceramic honeycomb core of automotive catalytic converters, the device that reduces the emission of toxic gases in vehicle exhaust pipes.

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Mechanics attribute the growing demand for the drug to a wave of thefts of catalytic converters, which are coated with metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Users mix the crushed honeycomb with vitamin pills and usually add sleeping pills, sedatives, or smoke it with tobacco, but nothing is known about how it works or its long-term effects, said Dandy Yela Y ‘Olemba, National Director of World Federation Against Drugs.

The metals in catalytic converters can cause cancer, Yela warned. “It’s not a substance made for us to consume,” Yela said. “Are we engines or are we humans?”

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