What is the drug of the red smile and why is it destroying an entire nation

Native to Asia and distributed throughout Africa and Oceania, Areca Nut is known among other things, for its stimulating properties. Nearly a tenth of the world's population uses it, giving a similar sensation to drinking six cups of coffee. It is also known as the drug of the red smile, it leaves the teeth of this color when it is consumed.

The nut, also known as betel, has set off the alarms of the scientific community, since it is causing the death of hundreds of people.

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The plant has a long trunk that can reach up to 30 meters in height. Its scientific name is Areca catechu. In areas such as the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, archaeological evidence has been found that it has been chewing for at least four millennia. In Vietnam and India it has a great symbolism the fact that the nut and the leaf are united, being used in marriage rituals.

Its popularity is such that it is equated with other psychoactive substances such as nicotine, alcohol and caffeine. The people who consume it the most are the men who work, who use it to stay awake.

Despite being used in cases of diarrhea, abdominal pain and digestive disorders, recent studies by different organizations have shown their serious effects on health.

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Although it has an important historical and cultural significance,cording to the data Organization of NaUnited Nations (UN), the rate of cancer in different parts of the mouth is higher in countries where betel is chewed. Of the 390,000 cases of oral or pharyngeal cancer that occur every year on a global scale, it is estimated that 228,000, or 58%, Present in South and Southeast Asia.

The UN is not the only organization concerned about this problem. "About half of men do not know that betel nuts can cause oral cancer," Dr. Hahn Liang-Jiunn, an oral cancer specialist at the National Hospital of the University of Taiwan, told BBC.

In addition, the areca nut is usually consumed in a package in which they are mixed calcium hydroxide, betel leaves, tobacco and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon. Except for the latter, all ingredients are considered carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The governments of the region are taking measures to prevent the consumption of betel in the population. In 2013, it had been reduced by half among men.

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