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Is Buying Diazepam Or Valium A Ticket To Jail?


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#1 webfact

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Posted 2010-01-24 11:48:30

PHUKET OPINION:

A prescription for injustice


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Is it really fair to allow drug stores to sell prescription drugs over the counter - and then arrest the tourists who buy them?

The arrest of a 17-year-old New Zealander for possession of diazepam without a prescription last month (see news pages) raises serious questions about the consistency of law enforcement in Phuket.

The facts of the case are pretty clear. The teenager admits to buying the pills. And he admits he had no prescription for them.

The Psychotropic Substances Act of 1974 makes it illegal to possess diazepam – and a whole host of other 'Schedule IV' drugs – without a doctor's written permission.

The officers who arrested him were just doing their job. Right?

Well, when the case is viewed in isolation, the answer has to be 'yes'.

But 'isolation' is a good word here, because this was the only case of prosecution for diazepam possession in 2009.

Phuket Provincial Police statistics show the island's cops seized a grand total of nine diazepam pills last year – the nine the young Kiwi was caught with.

They also confiscated 253 pills and 8 grams of alprazolam (trade name Xanax) in 18 cases over the same year.

But despite this smattering of arrests, you'd be forgiven for thinking possession of these drugs – and others such as erectile dysfunction treatments like Viagra and Cialis – without a prescription is legal.

Pharmacists across the west coast of the island are more than happy to sell them to tourists, prescription or no. The only documentation required is issued by the Royal Thai Mint. That this happens is well known to the authorities.

Indeed, a high-ranking source in the Phuket Public Health Office admitted his department allowed pharmacies to sell the drugs, albeit only in small quantities.

The regulations could be enforced if the will existed. Most Phuket Town pharmacies, or those in other areas where tourists are scarce, are scrupulous in their adherence to the law.

It seems the availability of these drugs serves to cement Phuket's reputation as a haven for those seeking pleasure, along with the widespread availability of certain other 'services' that are also technically illegal.

But is it right to make prescription drugs so easily available as to appear legal – and then arrest tourists who buy them?

Of course it's also notable that in the case of the 17-year-old Kiwi, no pharmacist has been arrested for selling the drugs.

In a complex world, joined-up government might be an impossible dream. But in this case it appears that one hand is dishing out prescription drugs – while the other is slapping handcuffs on the wrists of those who buy them.


-- Phuket Gazette 2010-01-24



#2 gotlost

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Posted 2010-01-24 11:54:19

Sounds about wright. The Thai way of being correct.

#3 Briggsy

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Posted 2010-01-24 12:03:24

Good article.

However the Thai legal system and how it is enforced by the police works neither on fairness nor the letter of the law. Rather the key factor, not the only factor but the key factor, is the status of the parties. This is determined by wealth, job, connections, prestige both by reputation and of one's role and job, age, educational qualifications, skin colour etc.

Whilst not wishing to replicate another thread that is running, the example used here is of a 17-year-old foreigner whose "status" here is virtually zero although it would be less if he were holding an Angolan passport rather than a NZ one.

#4 animatic

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Posted 2010-01-24 12:06:38

Yes, a total case of hypocrisies at it's finest or lowest...

If the kid took a Valium or 2 and then drank alcohol, he might not be acting normally.
I suspect if the guy were acting perfectly normally, and were aged 50,
he would have never been hauled in for this.

#5 geriatrickid

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Posted 2010-01-24 12:14:03

On the surface, this is an injustice.
However, I hold to my view that an adolescent should not be taking valium that is not prescribed for a medical condition.
This event might just very well have been a good thing for this person. What I would like to know if if this was a one off, or if the subject has an underlying addiction issue.

That being said, putting the adolescent in jail and holding him this long achieves nothing and does not help the subject. The drugs should have been confiscated, his parents advised and that should have been the end of it. More importantly, the pharmacist should have his license revoked for dispensing to a minor without a script. The pharmacist was no different than a pusher that sells yaba to a 17 year old.

#6 eirikur3

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Posted 2010-01-24 13:05:47

On the surface, this is an injustice.
However, I hold to my view that an adolescent should not be taking valium that is not prescribed for a medical condition.
This event might just very well have been a good thing for this person. What I would like to know if if this was a one off, or if the subject has an underlying addiction issue.

That being said, putting the adolescent in jail and holding him this long achieves nothing and does not help the subject. The drugs should have been confiscated, his parents advised and that should have been the end of it. More importantly, the pharmacist should have his license revoked for dispensing to a minor without a script. The pharmacist was no different than a pusher that sells yaba to a 17 year old.


Are we to understand that us buying viagra and/ or xanax and then get seached by police, are law breakers ? is it enough to have a letter from a clinic doctor, in wich he/she write i need these medicines ? i wonder

Edited by eirikur3, 2010-01-24 13:07:57.


#7 bob6023

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Posted 2010-01-24 13:34:09



I would think with so many problems facing TL at this time there would be other things to focus on. Valium a joke. How about reckless and/or drunken driving. Or drunkenness in general.

#8 FBN

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Posted 2010-01-24 13:41:09

It is illegal to buy these substances in Thailand without a prescription from a physician. They are scheduled drugs and nowhere in the UK or US where the same system exists, can these be bought over the counter.

The fact that some pharmacies sell these does not make it a legal transaction in any way and, if you are caught with it, however unjustified this seems, it remains illegal.

#9 Phil Conners

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Posted 2010-01-24 13:54:21

Rules Schmules.

Anywhere in the west you can walk into a doctor and get a prescription for Valium and/or Xanax without fuss. As far as I have been informed doctors in Thailand will or can not prescribe this.

#10 way2muchcoffee

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Posted 2010-01-24 14:08:59

It is illegal to buy these substances in Thailand without a prescription from a physician. They are scheduled drugs and nowhere in the UK or US where the same system exists, can these be bought over the counter.

The fact that some pharmacies sell these does not make it a legal transaction in any way and, if you are caught with it, however unjustified this seems, it remains illegal.


I don't think anybody can dispute that what you say is true. However, I think it is rather far from the point here. The fact that authorities allow and approve the sale of these mild drugs without prescription in registered, legal pharmacies, suggests that purchasing and/or possessing them in small quantities would be similarly allowed and approved.

#11 Veazer

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Posted 2010-01-24 14:30:10

It is illegal to buy these substances in Thailand without a prescription from a physician. They are scheduled drugs and nowhere in the UK or US where the same system exists, can these be bought over the counter.

The fact that some pharmacies sell these does not make it a legal transaction in any way and, if you are caught with it, however unjustified this seems, it remains illegal.


Technically correct in terms of legality, but many don't know this is the drug's legal status in this country because of the fact that the pharmacists are willing to freely sell it without a written prescription. If the police wish to take action, why not just go after the seller who is indeed aware of the legalities?

Edited by Veazer, 2010-01-24 14:34:17.


#12 Thai at Heart

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Posted 2010-01-24 14:30:59

It is illegal to buy these substances in Thailand without a prescription from a physician. They are scheduled drugs and nowhere in the UK or US where the same system exists, can these be bought over the counter.

The fact that some pharmacies sell these does not make it a legal transaction in any way and, if you are caught with it, however unjustified this seems, it remains illegal.


The funny thing is, that I went to buy some diazepam for my father who was having a back spasm. I also had no idea that valium and diazepam were the same thing. The chemist handed them over perfectly willingly, so how is the purchaser supposed to know that it requires a script?

Now one can say, that if you approach someone to purchase cocaine and the person hands it over, you cannot say that you didn't know it was illegal, since it would be the same purchase.

However, the obligation is on the CHEMIST to uphold the law in this situation. He possesses all sorts of pills and potions that in themselves can be used for medical treatment, but if sold commercially are illegal. Ironically, I would be be infinitely more worried about the plethora of anitbiotics that are available over the counter and which are completely misused than a kid with a few valium pills.

Once again selective enforcement of the law ensnares an innocent victim.

#13 jonclark

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Posted 2010-01-24 14:39:41

This case highlights the shambles of the Thai legal system, surely selling Valium without the receipt of a prescription is a graver offense, considering the pharmacist should be aware of the legal framework which surrounds his profession. Not gonna defend the kid, other than remind everyone that we were all young once and lacked sufficient life experience and often made stupid mistakes.

I'd be interested to see or hear the NZ side of things, press reports etc.

You'd imagine the general Thai way of finding a middle path, without conflict would have won through here on what is clearly a minor and insignificant lapse of judgment on the young boys part and a law which has rarely been enforced on the polices side.

#14 animatic

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Posted 2010-01-24 14:58:54

If it is illegal to prescribe why is it in pharmacies available with prescription, and in some cases without?
Because it IS LEGAL with a scrip.

#15 mellew

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Posted 2010-01-24 15:08:40

what was his sentence?? a fine or what was the outcome of case??

#16 Arkady

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Posted 2010-01-24 15:10:29

The Thai FDA doesn't trust pharmacies to stick to a prescription system. They control drugs viewed as potentially harmful but only allowing them to be sold in hospitals. This includes even things like the allergy drug, Zyrtec B, that is sold over the counter in the US - presumably because of the pseudoethedrine content that can be used for making methamphetamine although that is also present in Tiffy. I am not sure that valium and viagra type substances can legally be sold in pharmacies at all. Anyone know more about this?

#17 Jingthing

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Posted 2010-01-24 15:27:33

The Thai FDA doesn't trust pharmacies to stick to a prescription system. They control drugs viewed as potentially harmful but only allowing them to be sold in hospitals. This includes even things like the allergy drug, Zyrtec B, that is sold over the counter in the US - presumably because of the pseudoethedrine content that can be used for making methamphetamine although that is also present in Tiffy. I am not sure that valium and viagra type substances can legally be sold in pharmacies at all. Anyone know more about this?

I think you mean Zyrtec D (the d is for decongestant). Regular Zyrtec is available OTC (no scrip) in the US but my understanding is that Zyrtic D is not. Regular Zytec is sold everywhere in Thailand including places like Boots OTC.

Edited by Jingthing, 2010-01-24 15:28:11.


#18 NanLaew

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Posted 2010-01-24 15:38:44

The fact that Thailand's law and order processes are dysfunctional and pharmacies appear largely unregulated does not excuse any foreigner for purchasing prescription drugs, ie. knowingly breaking the law.

Or just because a home owner forgets to lock his front door at night does not excuse the opportunist burglar from stealing stuff that doesn't belong to him.

Social responsibility starts with the individual.

#19 fvw53

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Posted 2010-01-24 15:43:07

Beside the question if Diazepam (Valium) can bought legally or not, one needs to consider that it is a "benzodiazepine" with sometimes very serious withdrawal problems
See :
http://en.wikipedia....drawal_syndrome

#20 Jingthing

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Posted 2010-01-24 15:45:26

The fact that Thailand's law and order processes are dysfunctional and pharmacies appear largely unregulated does not excuse any foreigner for purchasing prescription drugs, ie. knowingly breaking the law.

Or just because a home owner forgets to lock his front door at night does not excuse the opportunist burglar from stealing stuff that doesn't belong to him.

Social responsibility starts with the individual.

Well, informed expats might know the score, but it is totally unrealistic to expect tourists to know that SOME meds they can easily buy OTC without scrip when most ALL meds are available here OTC without scrip are illegal, and which ones. If they want to crackdown, the only ethical method is to go after the pharmacies, not INNOCENT tourists, and I do mean INNOCENT.

#21 mahjongguy

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Posted 2010-01-24 15:47:29

I am not sure that valium and viagra type substances can legally be sold in pharmacies at all. Anyone know more about this?


Since there is no prescription system in Thailand, all restricted drugs must be issued at hospitals.

This includes Viagra et al, and all members of the benzodiazapam family from Valium To Xanax.

Go to any GP at any farang-oriented hospital and tell them that you're scared to fly (Xanax) or have trouble getting it up (Viagra) and they'll fix you right up. Just be sure to keep them in the little plastic envelope that's provided and you're covered.

#22 BlueSmurf

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Posted 2010-01-24 15:57:50

the stupid thing is that if you go to the doctor here they will give you anything you ask for....So if you need the occasional blissful nights sleep then go and ask at a clinic or hospital...Never heard of anyone being done for Viagra other than a aquaintance that brought back 30 boxes or so from Burma and was ask to pay 30,000 baht or go to jail for drug smuggling!

#23 MrHammer

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Posted 2010-01-24 16:18:21

This is indeed stupid by the Phuket police. They probably just wanted to teach the kid a lesson and then get a bribe from the parents. Apparently that didn't work, so they held him instead.

Every kind of medical drug is freely available everywhere in Thailand. You can buy Xanax in every pharmacy, not just in tourist areas. On lower Sukhumvit, Viagra and Cialis is openly on display, no problem buying hundreds of packets. 'Police? No ploblem!'. In the small pharmacies around that area, you can get every substance, steroids, efedrine, weight loss pills, heart medicine etc. Of course the police knows about this.

All in all, pretty dumb thing to do by the Phuket police, but not suprising.

#24 thaibkk

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Posted 2010-01-24 16:19:25

arrest the user not the supplier ... works in every country, as it is easy and solves... NOTHING

#25 NanLaew

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Posted 2010-01-24 17:01:35

The fact that Thailand's law and order processes are dysfunctional and pharmacies appear largely unregulated does not excuse any foreigner for purchasing prescription drugs, ie. knowingly breaking the law.

Or just because a home owner forgets to lock his front door at night does not excuse the opportunist burglar from stealing stuff that doesn't belong to him.

Social responsibility starts with the individual.

Well, informed expats might know the score, but it is totally unrealistic to expect tourists to know that SOME meds they can easily buy OTC without scrip when most ALL meds are available here OTC without scrip are illegal, and which ones. If they want to crackdown, the only ethical method is to go after the pharmacies, not INNOCENT tourists, and I do mean INNOCENT.

I can see where you are coming from without even raising an eyebrow at the words ethics relating to Thai law enforcement. The lawyers would love this dog fight in any ethical country now wouldn't they?

It's like the same kid drinking alcoholic beverages on the flight from New Zealand (not saying he did but for the sake of argument here). At 17 years old, there's not a lot that a kid can get away with in any jurisdiction in most civilised countries, be it smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, consensual sex or recreational AND prescription drugs (without a prescription). It's always easy to claim youthful ignorance, replete with the look of wide-eyed innocence AFTER getting caught. Just because you think you can break the law and get a way with it is not an excuse to break the law.

My rule of thumb that stood me in good stead when I first became the 'international gypsy' at 20 year-old was, "If it's prohibited or illegal at home, it's probably best avoided elsewhere."

Edited by NanLaew, 2010-01-24 17:05:16.






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