Crystal Meth in the Philippines: Shabu

“One of the fastest growing drug problems in the world is with ‘ice’ or crystal meth. It is known as shabu in the Philippines where official estimates suggest that about seven million people — almost 10 per cent of the population—use the drug.”

– from Al Jazeera’s, The Shackles of Shabu

Other names for ‘shabu’ include ubas, siopao, sha, and ice. It is usually in the form of an odorless crystal or crystalline powder, white in color and bitter in taste. Shabu is being imported from other Asian countries including Japan, China, and Korea, and is also being “homegrown” in clandestine meth labs in the Philippines. It is used both domestically and exported to other countries.

Shabu: The “most used” illicit drug in the Philippines

According to a recent United Nations report, methamphetamine was identified as the “most used” illicit drug in the Philippines. Additionally, the Philippines—along with Burma and China—accounted for most of the world’s production of methamphetamine over the past decade.

Most people smoke shabu, but it can also be snorted, injected, or simply dissolved in a liquid. In no time at all tolerance can set in after frequent use, and the user will need greater quantities to get high.

Crystal meth is a dangerous drug in that it:

* is highly addictive
* produces anxiety, tension, irritability, irrational thought and behavior
* causes loss of appetite
* causes inability to sleep
* produces feelings of euphoria and elation
* causes mood swings and unpredictable behavior
* causes weight loss, tooth decay and cracked teeth (see The Faces of Meth)
* causes mental and physical deterioration (including psychosis and death)
* causes violent and destructive behavior
* causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to strokes and death
* increases risk of convulsions, respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, and extreme anorexia

In the Philippines, the penalty for possession of shabu is life imprisonment to death.

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