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Ask anyone in Thailand about yaba; most likely, they will tell you that it can make a person go crazy. Even so, this powerful stimulant is heavily abused throughout Thailand and the surrounding countries. Produced in Myanmar and smuggled illegally across borders, yaba addiction is a serious issue with many people in Asia highly addicted to the drug. The drug is cheap and readily available. It is causing an immense number of problems.
Prior to 1970, yaba could legally be purchased in Thailand shops. Late night workers and truck drivers would use it to stay awake and make more money. Now the drug is illegal, but the use of it by Thai people and foreigners/expats alike has skyrocketed.
Yaba means “crazy medicine” in Thai. It is a synthetic mixture of approximately 25-35 mg of methamphetamine and 45 to 65 mg of caffeine. The round, coloured (mostly red or orange) tablet may also contain household cleaning agents or sometime heroin.
The tablet is often burned over foil and inhaled using a straw; however it can also be swallowed. Unfortunately, many people who abuse yaba were misled into believing that it could help them to lose weight, it is no worse than coffee or it has no side effects or potential of addiction. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Within a few days of consistent use, an individual can become hooked on yaba.
Yaba is considered to make up of 50% of the worlds stimulant –like drug abuse. Over the past five years, yaba has made its way from Myanmar and Thailand into Cambodia and most recently Bangladesh.
Not a week goes by without a report of a major drug bust on the boarder of Myanmar. In April 2023, BDNews24 reported a Yaba Siezure of 200,000 pills.
At a major Bangladesh port in 2014, 1.1 million yaba tablets were seized from smugglers. The drug has gained wider exposure beginning with wealthy people and those in the entertainment industry to most recently young university students and blue collar workers. In addition to yaba abuse in Bangladesh, this drug is seen as being a new trend in Australia, the Philippines, the West Coast of the USA and even Europe
The supply in Thailand is so high that the ThaiEnquirer reported in Aug 2022 that the price has been pushed down to 10 to 20 baht (30 to 60 cents) per tablet. With constant headlines like below.
Immediate effects of yaba are light-headedness which can be followed by euphoria, increased energy, raised alertness and the ability to stay awake for hours and days at a time. These effects do not last very long causing the yaba abuser to take anywhere from 5 and 30 tablets a day.
From the initial euphoria and alertness, the user may begin to feel irritable or angry. They may have no appetite and be unable to sleep. Nausea, hot flashes, sweating and dry mouth are all short term effects that can appear during the come down period of yaba.
One of the most alarming effects of yaba abuse and addiction is the mental health problems which can be associated with both prolonged and even short term use. A person may display extreme paranoia or confusion. Anxiety, aggression and violence are all possibilities which is why crime often goes hand in hand with yaba abuse. Rehab centers have also reported many addicts experiencing hallucinations or feelings of bugs crawling underneath the skin. Due to energy rushes, a yaba abuser may suffer from insomnia and nightmares. As a result of the extreme highs and lows, depression and suicidal tendencies are common.
The physical effects of yaba abuse resemble those of a methamphetamine addiction. Rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure and damage to blood vessels in the brain (which can cause a stroke) are synonymous with occasional and regular yaba use. Overtime, the lining of the heart and tissue of the lung can become inflamed. Hair loss, skin ruptures, kidney and liver damage, infection of the esophagus, seizures, tremors, stroke and heart attacks are all symptoms which could appear without seeking the help of a yaba treatment center.
The majority of users will orally take yaba; however, there is a small percentage who inject the drug. This opens up the possibility for contracting infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis and STD’s through unprotected sex.
Yaba, or any methamphetamine like drug, is dangerous in all forms. It has a high potential of dependence and with chronic use, the individual will go through a withdrawal. The initial symptoms of a yaba withdrawal can be very unpleasant and last for several days. These can include agitation, confusion, irritability, excessive sleeping, cold sweats, constant crying, emotional influx and thoughts of suicide. Because many of these can be so intense, the guidance of a yaba rehab is advised. Once these symptoms subside, a person could have psychosis like feelings which can last for months.
An addiction to yaba is extremely serious. Due to the mental health implications quitting can have, anyone with an addiction should seek the support of a private rehab for yaba. These inpatient drug rehab programs will allow the user to be treated with respect and compassion. The yaba withdrawal will be monitored, internal issues will be worked through and healing will begin.