Originally named "ya máa" (ยาม้า), meaning "Horse drug". A drug designed for horses in Burmese Shan provinces. Given to them when pulling carts up steep hills and for strenuous work.
Yaba is sometimes called bhul bhuliya in India. The name commonly used for it in the Philippines and Indonesia is shabú. In North Thailand it is often referred to as "Chocalee" due to a somewhat sweet taste Yaba pills leave in the mouth.
Appearance and use
Yaba is typically produced in a round pill form. There are many different versions of Yaba and the most common are colored in red, orange or lime green and carry logos such as "R" or "WY". They are small and round, roughly 6 mm in diameter (similar size to Smint but round), which means they can be packed inside a regular drinking straw for easy transportation or in a reusable 'mint' container.
Quality varies according to source, most are smoked "chasing" on aluminum foil or inside covers of cigarette packs: placing part of the pill on aluminum foil and inhaling the fumes through a straw as a lighter slowly heats the aluminum foil. It is also common to simply swallow the drug in pill form; this method lengthens the duration of the drug to between eight and 16 hours, as compared to one to three hours when smoked, and reduces the intensity considerably. Strength varies and the active ingredients are caffeine and methamphetamine. The peak of the drug's effects is followed by a come down period lasting 6–10 hours, during which the user may have difficulty sleeping or eating. Many users report that it takes them up to 24-hours after consumption to be able to fall asleep.
Yaba is not commonly injected as many intravenous users favour the pure product instead (methamphetamine - called 'ice' in S.E Asia). This illegal drug is especially popular in Thailand, where it is imported from Burma or Laos even though it is sometimes manufactured locally in Thailand.
The typical Yaba users are working males aged 16–40 years old, and its use is widespread amongst both female and male prostitutes in Thailand and Cambodia.
Burma (Myanmar) is the largest producer of methamphetamines in the world, with the majority of ya ba found in Thailand produced in Burma, particularly in the Golden Triangle and Northeastern Shan State, which borders Thailand, Laos and China. In 2010, Burma trafficked 1 billion tablets to neighboring Thailand. Ethnic militias and rebel groups (in particular the United Wa State Army) are responsible for much of this production; however, the Burmese military units are believed to be heavily involved in the trafficking of the drugs.
Rise and fall in popularity in Thailand
Yaba tablets were sold at gas stations and commonly used by Thai truckers to stay awake. After many horrific long-distance bus accidents, they were outlawed by the Thai government in 1970. The deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's campaign from 2003 onwards to eliminate drug-trafficking has further helped to curtail widespread use, in particular, use of the drug by bus drivers is not as widespread as it was in the 1980s.
As a result of the Thai government crackdown, restricted supply has had a huge effect on prices, further curtailing the popular use of Yaba. In 1999-2000, when buying a straw-full (around 20 pills) in Chiang Rai province, North Thailand, Yaba was sold for around ฿10 per pill and commonly used on the go-go circuit and by young 'MTV' clubbers. Retail prices have risen[when?] from 100–150 baht (US$3–4) to 250–450 baht per pill as a result of the crackdown, though it remains a popular party drug.
In 2000, Yaba was smuggled across the loose border with Burma and from the neighbouring Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provinces of Thailand. Illegal traffickers often marketed or 'promoted' their product by claiming that the pills contained up to 6% heroin. Rumour suggested it was produced by the corrupt personnel of Wa State Army in Burma.
In 2006, Yaba consumption became fashionable for the well-to-do in Bangladesh. A series of highly publicized drug raids in 2007 by authorities implicated some well-known business people.
Although the extent of Yaba abuse in Bangladesh and India is not precisely known, 1.2 million tablets were confiscated by authorities in 2007 according a rehabilitation centre in Chang Mai. It is also believed those who use it on a regular basis are frequently involved in the distribution of the drug, either directly or indirectly. It is commonly known in Bangladesh as Pill, BABA, Gari, Guti, Bori, among other street names.
In February 2010 it was reported that increasingly large quantities of Yaba are being smuggled into Israel by Thai migrant workers leading to fears that its use will spread to the Israeli club scene, where ecstasy use is already common. In recent years, it has also been used by immigrant populations in the United States, and occasionally as a club drug replacing ecstasy.
Long term effects
Methamphetamine is highly addictive, with many long-term users taking 5-10 pills daily. Post come-down effects include irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia, and aggressiveness. Hair loss can also be an indicator of a long-term user, either as a direct result of the drug intake, or indirectly through the user becoming withdrawn and anxious and contracting behavioural habits, such as hair pulling. Other reported symptoms also include lower back pain, possibly from damage to the liver or kidneys.
- Thornton, Phil (12 February 2012). "Myanmar's rising drug trade". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
- ‘Nazi speed’ being smuggled here in ever-larger amounts, Jerusalem Post
- New drug seeping into California communities. The Associated Press, 22 September 2002
- Dhaka police in 'huge' drugs haul. BBC News, Friday, 26 October 2007