The Korean entertainment industry is being rattled by a police investigation of a fad for Propofol, the knockout drug that killed Michael Jackson.
Industry sources on Wednesday said dozens of people in the showbusiness appear to have developed a penchant for the powerful anesthetic.
Actors who often have to shoot all night long and lead an irregular life are said to be drawn to the drug because it puts them to sleep almost instantly.
Entertainers are also more likely to encounter the drug since they tend to spend a lot of their time in clinics undergoing plastic surgery and other cosmetic treatments. This would explain why most of the celebrities under police investigation are women like actresses Lee Seung-yeon, Park Si-yeon and Hyun Young.
Some compliant plastic surgeons and dermatologists allegedly bypass restrictions on Propofol by prescribing it in combination with nominal medical treatment.
Some users apparently self-inject. An executive with a management agency said plastic surgeons are often complicit and prescribe the drug, because having celebrity patients is good advertising.
Rumors began to circulate in the entertainment industry here in 2009 that Propofol is not addictive but fast and effective in relieving fatigue. Until then, the use of the drug was limited to anesthetic treatment in clinics and hospitals.
One plastic surgeon said that a cosmetic clinic in the affluent Apgujeong district of Seoul started to prescribe the drug for non-medical purposes around 2009, luring celebrities and causing other clinics to follow suit.
"Back then, people were unaware of the perils of the drug," he added. It was not designated as an illegal substance until February 2011.