Meth, Synthetic Drug Escalation a New Threat for Asia Communities

The United Nations says it sees an escalation in the production and use of amphetamines and synthetic drugs as a new threat for communities in Asia.

In northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, the weekend seizure of almost two million methamphetamine pills came as traffickers attempted to breach a police checkpoint.

One trafficker was shot dead as a combined force of soldiers and police confronted the traffickers near in the infamous Golden Triangle region of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.

News of such large seizures of methamphetamines and potent synthetic drugs and heroin come with increasing frequency, even for a region long known at the frontline of drug trafficking.

A recent assessment by The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) highlighted a massive escalation in methamphetamine production and seizure rates.

“A total of 287 million methamphetamine tablets were seized in East and South East Asia in 2015, a more than two-fold increase compared to 2011,” the UN report said.

But synthetic drugs, also known as new psychoactive substances, are also evident and a major contributor to a drug overdose epidemic.

The UNODC said Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam had also “perceived an increase in the use of methamphetamine tablets in 2015”.

Cambodia, China, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam also all reported increases in use and trafficking of crystalline methamphetamine – a liquid form of the drug that is injected.

The production and trafficking of methamphetamine and heroin within and from the region generates an estimated $40 billion annually and UNODC data show the flow of illicit drugs continues to rise across the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Methamphetamine – known in Thai as ‘ya ba’ – has long been a staple in the illegal drugs trade.

The new threats in synthetic drugs include fentanyl, which the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says is “50 to 100 times” more potent than opioids such as…

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