"Flyer's chocolate", "shabu" or "gingerbread" - currently the most popular hard drug in the Czech Republic has a lot of names and a colourful history. It was first synthesized in Japan in 1893 and during the Second World War it was given to the country's kamikaze pilots. The German military dispensed the drug to its war pilots and Adolf Hitler is rumoured to have received three daily injections of it from his personal physician. It was banned after the war but was later re-discovered by drug addicts in communist Czechoslovakia. Illegal Czech producers are now smuggling it back to Germany and Austria.
Pervitin - the official name for the homemade hard drug - is an amphetamine that causes euphoria and excitement. It has the same effect on the brain as cocaine but is cheaper and more available. "Pernik" or gingerbread, as it is called by Czech addicts, can be synthesized from over-the-counter flu medicine in a simple home lab. It can be injected, sniffed or taken orally and during the communist years it was the only hard drug available on the illegal drugs market. Consequently Czech drug addicts have plenty of experience in making it. Whereas in the past they produced it for a small circle of friends - now they have discovered a new market in neighbouring Austria and Germany. Pavla Lejckova from the National Monitoring Centre for Drug Abuse explains the growing demand for it.
"Pervitin has similar effects as cocaine but cocaine is much more expensive so many addicts have started using pervitin instead. In the Czech Republic there are many people who know how to make it and they are sometimes asked to go to other countries to make pervitin there but the drug is also smuggled across the border. Illegal producers know they can always sell it in the Czech Republic but it makes more sense for them to sell it in neighbouring Germany and Austria for double the price."
In neighbouring Germany, Pervitin is sold under the name Crystal and has become a popular party drug. The German authorities report a growing number of cases and the two countries have joined forces to try and fight it. A special Czech-German police squad code named Crystal now operates along the common border. But the German daily Die Welt, which reported on the problem last week, says it may be too late. The demand for Crystal is there and German addicts are gradually learning how to produce it themselves.