The Yaba Epidemic

Words by Elizabeth Pollard

Yaba is a drug heavily circulating Eastern Asia for the last twenty five years and despite international enforcement, it is still a huge problem in countries like Thailand and Bangladesh. It’s main ingredient is methamphetamine but also contains caffeine and is almost always mixed with an array of other harmful powders to bulk out the pill. In the UK Yaba is classified as a ‘class A’ drug, alongside cocaine, ecstasy and heroin. The difference however between party drugs like MDMA, ecstasy or meow meow (all of which are class A in the UK) is the aggressive effect Yaba has on the user, how easily it is to get addicted and how young people when they start taking it.

Boys as young as 10 years old get their first taste of Yaba, but the deterioration is rapid and within a few years have to face a painful recovery, if not an early grave. But it’s not just their own lives they are destroying. ‘Yaba’ meaning the ‘crazy drug’ causes users to suffer extreme aggression, anxiety, paranoia and memory loss. Crime is often committed not just to afford the drug but mostly under intoxication.

Becoming popular is countries like Burma, Thailand, Laos and now Bangladesh is no coincidence. Initially, Yaba was sold to truck drivers, city workers and the poorer communities to stay up and work long hours, allowing them to bring more money home to their families. For similar reasons, the drug is often giving to young adults and kids; vanilla flavouring and sugar coating is added purely to appeal to the younger market. For many years now, the market has  opened up to tourists and Western party goers and despite the Thai government declaring war on the drug, it still remains highly accessible and a problem sweeping Asia.


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