Doda powder seized in 2009 by RCMP in Surrey, B.C. The addictive substance is mixed with water to make a type of opiate tea. ((RCMP))

Consumption of the opiate doda, an illegal and addictive concoction made from dried poppy pods, is out of control in Metro Vancouver's South Asian community, say experts in Surrey.

Dr. Gulzar Cheema said doda has been popular in the South Asian community for years and is currently sold under the counter in many pawnshops, video stores and other retail outlets.

Doda is a powder made by grinding the seed pods of opium poppies and is usually used to make a type of tea.

Police have ignored the problem for so long, it's now as common as marijuana in some circles, said Cheema.

He said recovery from doda addiction can be severe.

"Loss of appetite, tremors, panic, panic attacks," Cheema said. "You get stomach cramps; some people get diarrhea and vomiting."

Growing problem

Doda addiction is now the second biggest substance-abuse problem in the South Asian community, Surrey addictions counsellor Rajpal Singh said.

"It's spread a lot and it's spreading more," Singh said. "It is a big problem."

Doda users are often construction workers or truckers who use the drug to help them stay awake through long work shifts. Opiates often trigger bursts of energy before eventually causing pronounced tiredness in users.

RCMP spokesman Const. Michael McLaughlin said police have not been ignoring the doda problem but have been involved in long-running investigations.

"We are going to go after the big fish," said McLaughlin. "We are going to go after people who are doing the most law-breaking and causing the most harm."

McLaughlin said the opium poppy crop that was seized in Chilliwack on Aug. 23 was likely owned by an organized crime group that might have been growing the crop for the doda market.

RCMP are recommending charges against two men who were tending the field of about 60,000 poppy plants when police raided the site. The bust was the largest poppy seizure in Canada to date.