There's no shortage of creative—and dangerous—ways to get fucked up on a budget in Indonesia. People already combine stuff that should, by most accounts, kill person like pure methanol and acetone with over-the-counter headache pills, crushed up mosquito coils, and even toilet cleaner into toxic, and intoxicating, brews.
But now, the kids have moved on to something new: menstrual pads. The head of the drug eradication department, at the Central Java branch of the National Drug Agency (BNN) broke the disgusting news this week in an interview with the newspaper Jawa Pos.
"The materials they're using are legal, but they're not being used in a way that's intended, so it ends up being used like a drug," explained Suprinatro, of the BNN. "We need to take steps to educate people that there are materials that aren’t classified as drugs or psychotropics in the eyes of the law, but can still be misused."
The rest of the story is actually really sad. These teens, most of them ages 13 to 16, live on the streets in places like Purwodadi, Kudus, Pati, Rembang, and West Semarang, Suprinatro said. They take the menstrual pads, some used, some brand new, and boil them in water, distilling the chemicals and "gels" inside. They then drink the tainted water and feel sorta high.
“In the past they used the used ones," explained Indra Dwi Purnomo, a lecturer at Fakultas Psikologi Unika Soegijapranata, who works with street kids. "Usually, they use the winged ones, which have a lot of gel."
And apparently, it's been going on for years. In the past, sniffing glue was the drug of choice for Indonesian street kids. But a lot of them have moved on, searching for more creative ways to get messed up off stuff that others might not even think twice about. Sitty Hikmawatty, a commissioner for drugs and health with the Indonesian Committee on Child Protection (KPAI), told the press that the boiled menstrual pads trends is already a few years old.
“A lot of these kids are smart, and with the internet they can make new variants and concoctions," she said. "This is where the risk factor goes up because they’re only concerned with one substance in a mixture, ignoring the other substances, leaving open the possibility of fatal side effects."
The Ministry of Health said it will investigate what, exactly, is in the pads that's making kids feel so fucked up. What hasn't been said though is whether anyone is going to work to get these kids off the streets in the first place, which, again, is pretty damn sad.
What drew them to menstrual pads in the first place? Well, that might have something to do with the fact that there are more than a billion of them thrown away every single month. Indonesian consumers don't buy tampons, mainly because of prevailing beliefs that women who use tampons are no longer really "virgins."
But there's also the fact that Indonesian authorities love talking about drug scares, and the press loves running with the most-sensational of claims. Last year, police were making the rounds with stories about a muscle relaxer that was causing dozens of school kids to have seizures. Recently, we've seen stories about kid who passed out Ecstasy thinking it was candy and another about the seizure of a multi-level marketing scheme pushing MDMA-laced vape juice.