Propofol seizures go up tenfold after crackdown

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Propofol seizures go up tenfold after crackdown

Over the past year the amount of propofol confiscated through the law enforcement authorities’ crackdown went up tenfold according to a narcotics probe by the prosecution, following a recent string of celebrities under investigation for misuse of the hypnotic agent.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office stated that prosecution and police data indicated that 20,202 propofol vials, each 20 milliliters (0.6 ounce), were confiscated last year. This is 10 times more compared to 2011, when 2,005 vials were confiscated.

Last April, TV personality Amy was arrested for an alleged illegal possession and usage of propofol after collapsing in a nail parlor in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, with an intravenous needle stuck in her arm and propofol vials in her handbag.

She was sentenced in November to two years of probation and community service. The prolific case shed light that many other celebrities and individuals were being illegally prescribed and misusing the drug, and the government last fall began a crackdown on the abuse of propofol and other narcotic drugs.

They especially targeted clinics in posh Gangnam District and found that propofol usage had increased amongst celebrities, adult entertainment workers, doctors and nurses.

In 74 hospitals and clinics, 94 doctors and six nurses were suspected of abusing their authority to illegally administer or prescribe propofol, said the prosecution, and are currently under investigation.

They especially targeted clinics in posh Gangnam District and found that propofol usage had increased amongst celebrities, adult entertainment workers, doctors and nurses.

The highly addictive drug, best known for killing singer Michael Jackson and known in Korean street slang as “milk injection” for its milky appearance, is a hypnotic agent that is commonly used along with anesthesia in medical procedures and can be used for relaxation, sedation and, in some cases, recreationally for euphoria.

Actresses Lee Seung-yeon and Jang Mi In Ae were summoned and questioned last week over an alleged abuse of propofol, and more celebrities are expected to follow. Both actresses’ agencies denied allegations and refuted that they were given propofol only for medical reasons.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office further reported in its narcotics probe for 2012 that 9,255 individuals were indicted on charges of drug trafficking last year, up by 0.9 percent from the previous year.

The amount of drugs smuggled in from foreign countries went up from 22.9 kilograms (50 pounds) in 2011 to 35.1 kilograms last year, and the smuggling routes were being diversified to Southeast Asia and Africa and countries like New Zealand, Hungary and Kenya.


By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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