Ya ba

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ya ba
Yaba (left) seized by United States Customs and Border Protection
Legal status
Legal status
  • US: Schedule II[1]

Ya ba (Thai: ยาบ้า, Lao: ຢາບ້າ, literally 'crazy medicine') is a drug containing a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine.[2][3] It was formerly known as yama (Thai: ยาม้า; literally 'horse drug'), and now goes by a variety of names, including "bikers' coffee" and "kamikaze". Although it is illegal, it has considerable use in Southeast Asia.[4]

It is also known as "baba, guti, bedona, ishtup, apple, patthor, dana, poke, bichi, aeroplane, ghora and kalojori."


The drug has gone by various names across time and locations.

In Thailand, it went by ya khayan ('hard-working pill'), then as ya maa ('horse medicine'), and then ya ba ('crazy pill') in 1996.[5] According to an episode of the television series Drugs, Inc., it is commonly referred to in north Thailand as chocalee, due to its alleged sweet taste and chocolatey smell.[6] In Myanmar (formerly Burma), it is also called kyethi (literally, 'button'), athi, and palarkar.[citation needed] In Malaysia it is known as pil kuda (literally, 'horse pill').[7][8] The name commonly used for it in the Philippines and Indonesia is shabú.[9] The name commonly used for it in China is ma-goo or ma-guo.[citation needed] In Bangladesh, it is colloquially known as baba, guti, laal, khawon, ‘jinish ’, stuff or maal.[citation needed] Ya ba is sometimes called bhul bhuliya in India.[citation needed]

According to the US National Drug Intelligence Center, the drug is most commonly referred to in the US as "crazy medicine" and "Nazi speed".[2]

Description and effects[edit]

Ya ba is typically produced in a round pill form. There are many different versions of ya ba, and the most common are red, pink, orange, or lime green in color and carry logos such as "R" or "WY".[2] They are small and round, roughly 6 millimetres (0.24 in) in diameter, which means they can be packed inside a plastic soda straw for easy transportation or in a reusable "mint" container.[citation needed]

Ya ba tablets typically are consumed orally and are sometimes flavored like confectionery.[2] Another method of consumption is chasing the dragon, wherein the ya ba tablet is placed on aluminium foil and heated from below, which produces vapors that are then inhaled.[2] The drug also may be administered by crushing the tablets into powder, which is then snorted or mixed with a solvent and injected.[2]

When swallowed in pill form the duration of the drug's effect is 8–16 hours, as compared to 1–3 hours when smoked, while the intensity is considerably reduced.[citation needed] The peak of the drug's effect is followed by a comedown period lasting 6–10 hours, during which the consumer may have difficulty sleeping or eating.[citation needed] Many consumers report that it takes them up to 24 hours after consumption to be able to fall asleep.[citation needed]

Typical ya ba consumers are working males, aged 16–40 years. Its use is also common among both female and male sex workers in Thailand and Cambodia.[10]


Myanmar is the largest producer of Methamphetamine in the world, with the majority of ya ba found in Thailand being produced in Burma, particularly in the Golden Triangle and northeastern Shan State, which borders Thailand, Laos, and China.[11] In 2010, Burma trafficked 1 billion tablets to neighbouring Thailand.[11] 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.[11][12]

Global usage[edit]

Rise and fall in popularity in Thailand[edit]

Ya ba tablets were formerly sold legally at fuel stations and used by long-haul drivers to stay awake. The drug was outlawed by the Thai government in 1970.[13]

Law enforcement officials said that as of 2002, most of the drug was produced by the United Wa State Army in Myanmar.[13] It was smuggled from Myanmar across the porous border into Thailand. In 2014, it was reported that Thailand's northeast provinces have seen a 700% increase in the number of people arrested for meth since 2008, according to data from the Narcotics Suppression Bureau.[14] In 2013, authorities counted more than 33,000 meth-related arrests in the northeast. The rapid growth of ya ba use in Isan mirrors that which occurred across Asia, which by 2014 accounted for more than 50 percent of global amphetamine-type stimulant consumers.[14]

On 16 June 2016, the National Council for Peace and Order, the military junta ruling Thailand, stated that it was planning to decriminalise ya ba.[15][16]


In 2006, ya ba consumption became common for the poor. Although the extent of ya ba abuse in Bangladesh is not precisely known, seizures of the drug by authorities are frequent.[17][3] 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.[18][19]

Some Burmese Rohingya refugees are hired by drug dealers to smuggle ya ba from Myanmar into Bangladesh.[20] In 2016, 359 Burmese were arrested on ya ba-smuggling charges, and up to US$29 million worth of ya ba was seized by the Bangladeshi authorities.[20]

In October 2018 the Bangladeshi government drafted a law which punishes a person who carries a minimum 200 grams (7.1 ounces) of ya ba with capital punishment.[21]

Other countries[edit]

In Malaysia, it is commonly found in the state of Kelantan, on the border with Thailand.[7][8]

In February 2010 it was reported that increasingly large quantities of ya ba were being smuggled into Israel by Thai migrant workers, leading to fears that its use would spread to the Israeli club scene, where ecstasy use is already common.[22]

In 2003, the US National Drug Intelligence Center described the drug as having emerging popularity in Asian communities in the US, specifically in California.[2] It was also described as an increasingly popular club drug.[2]


  1. ^ "Yaba Fast Facts". www.justice.gov. Retrieved 2022-10-09.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Yaba Fast Facts". US National Drug Intelligence Center. National Drug Intelligence Center. June 2003. Retrieved 2014-11-13.
  3. ^ a b Pressley L (25 April 2019). "Yaba: The cheap synthetic drug convulsing a nation". BBC News. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  4. ^ Hogan L (28 July 2018). "Myanmar's meth crisis reaches as far as Australia". ABC News.
  5. ^ Glahan S (21 June 2016). "Time we shook off meth's criminal stigma". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 2016-12-19.
  6. ^ "Drugs Inc. Bangkok Ice" S7/Ep19 (2015)
  7. ^ a b "Chapter Four: The Golden Triangle | The Star". www.thestar.com.my. Retrieved 2020-09-13.
  8. ^ a b Iman K (2019-09-24). "What is 'pil kuda' and why are so many Standard 4 kids using it?". CILISOS - Current Issues Tambah Pedas!. Retrieved 2020-09-13.
  9. ^ "UN: Methamphetamine Output Booming in Southeast Asia | Voice of America - English". www.voanews.com. Retrieved 2020-09-13.
  10. ^ Maher L, Phlong P, Mooney-Somers J, Keo S, Stein E, Couture MC, Page K (May 2011). "Amphetamine-type stimulant use and HIV/STI risk behaviour among young female sex workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia". The International Journal on Drug Policy. 22 (3): 203–209. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2011.01.003. PMC 3104095. PMID 21316935.
  11. ^ a b c Thornton P (12 February 2012). "Myanmar's rising drug trade". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 2012-02-19.
  12. ^ "Fire and Ice: Conflict and Drugs in Myanmar's Shan State" (Report Number 299). International Crisis Group. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 2019-10-19.
  13. ^ a b Chu L (22 September 2002). "New club drug more dangerous than Ecstasy: Ya ba methamphetamine 'crazy drug'". Ventura County Star. Associated Press. p. A09.
  14. ^ a b Presser L (1 December 2014). "Drug Addiction Grows on Thai Rubber Farms". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
  15. ^ "Justice Minister: ya ba should be excluded from list of narcotic drugs". Thai PBS. Bangkok. 16 June 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-06-22. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  16. ^ Winn P (8 September 2016). "Thailand is moving closer to decriminalizing meth". Public Radio International (PRI). Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  17. ^ Sanaul IT (3 June 2013). "Bail rejected, 'Yaba king' Amyn Huda in jail". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 2014-11-13.
  18. ^ "Smuggling of Yaba tablets increasing day-by-day in Bangladesh". Bnionline.net. 4 December 2011. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  19. ^ Kunnen (24 February 2009). "Global Smart Update" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  20. ^ a b Kullab S (23 February 2017). "The Trouble With Thengar Char". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  21. ^ "Narcotics Control Bill passed with death penalty for dealing yaba". Dhaka Tribune. 2018-10-27. Retrieved 2022-10-09.
  22. ^ Lappin Y (2 February 2010). "'Nazi speed' smuggled in huge amounts". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2014-11-13.

Further reading[edit]