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ARCHIVE:  March 9, 2004

"Yaba" Methamphetamine

Dear Dr. Shulgin:

I have been hearing a lot about a new drug from southeastern Asia called Yaba, meaning "crazy drug." It is supposed to be a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine. What exactly is this drug? Maybe some kind of a more potent analogue of methamphetamine? --Mort

Dear Mort:

Yaba (or Ya Ba or Ya Baa) is the Thai name for methamphetamine. It first appeared in Myanmar (Burma) in the early 1990's where it supplemented the sale of heroin, which was one of their major exports. For a long time, Thailand merely played the role of an exporting route for the drug-smugglers as there was very little demand there for heroin. But the Thais fell in love with Yaba and within a decade its use became an epidemic. Although there have been no reports of caffeine as an additive, there have been chocolate and vanilla flavorings used as an incentive to try it. It is used by teen-agers as a cheap form of Ecstasy. As a stay-awake stimulant it was available at almost every motor vehicle refueling station.

In February 2003, a new and even more horrible side of this picture emerged. The Prime Minister decreed that Thailand would become drug-free in three months. The process was simple: There would be the imprisonment of drug users and the execution of drug dealers. Performance quotas were assigned to the police, and within a month over a 1000 "dealers" had been killed and 10,000 suspect users arrested and imprisoned. Nonetheless, the popularity of Yaba is spreading to the Philippines, to Cambodia, and even north into China.

The Kingdom of Thailand should rediscover its ancient Buddhist tradition of tolerance.

-- Dr. Shulgin

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