Home > The Complex Nature of Abused Substances and Getting Help for Addiction > Yaba (Yaa Baa, Shabu) Addiction
Yaba is a type of methamphetamine that is widely used in Southeast Asia. It is also sometimes written as Yaa Baa or Yah Baa. In the Philippines and Indonesia it is called Shabu. Yaba means crazy medicine in the Thai language and this name is well deserved. In Nazi Germany the same pill was used to allow fighting troops to stay awake for long periods. Then the drug was called Pervitin and even today it can still be referred to as Nazi Speed. Abuse of Yaba is a serious problem in places like Thailand, Myanmar and more recently in Bangladesh. These tablets are not as commonly available in other parts of the world. Some have claimed that abuse of yaba is more serious than crack or heroin addiction.
The main ingredients in Yaba are methamphetamine and caffeine. The tablets can also contain other ingredients such as household cleaning products,.
Methamphetamine works by increasing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It also inhibits the body’s ability to reuptake this chemical. Dopamine is part of the body’s reward system so high doses of this chemical are very pleasurable. The drug makes people feel more alert and full of energy. People who take Yaba can stay awake for days at a time. In Thailand it was once referred to as Yaa Maa which means horse medicine in Thai. It got this name because of its reputation for giving people the energy to work like a horse.
Most yaba production occurs in Myanmar within the Golden Triangle. It is synthesized in factories and final product is in small pill form. This tablet can be ingested directly by just swallowing it. Some users will burn it on aluminum foil while inhaling the smoke using a straw. This is said to produce a more intense experience.
The consequences of yaba addiction can be severe. In Thailand during the eighties and nineties there were frequent as well as spectacular examples of people going wild on the drug. There was almost an epidemic of people throwing themselves off buildings and one deranged man even attempted to kill himself and his baby while a TV crew were filming. The dangers of this drug are exacerbated by the fact that many will use paint thinner and other inhalants as a means to come down from the highs of the yaba trip.
The dangers of yaba use include:
* This drug can have a highly detrimental impact on mental health. Even short term use can lead to episodes of acute paranoia, anxiety, and confusion. Use of this drug can cause even normally placid individuals to become aggressive and violent. Hallucinations are common with this drug and people can behave dangerously because of this. The most common hallucination is of bugs crawling on the skin.
* Sleep deprivation can destroy the individual’s sense of well-being
* Blood pressure can become elevated to dangerous levels. This is not only damaging to the heart, but it can also cause a stroke.
* Chronic use may lead to inflammation of the heart.
* In high doses yaba can cause dangerously elevated body temperatures
* High risk of depression
* High risk of suicide
* Yaba is highly addictive
* Kidney damage
* Liver damage
During the nineties there were concerns voiced in the media that a yaba epidemic was about to strike western countries. This never really happened and methamphetamine use is showing a decline in popularity in the US. The percentage of young people using this type of drug fell from 0.3% to 0.1% between 2002 and 2008.
There also appears to have been a decline in the number of users in places like Thailand. Up until 2000 there was little evidence that the Thai government was taking this type of abuse seriously enough. It was made illegal in 1970 but remained relatively easy to buy. It was commonly used by people working in certain industries where staying awake for long periods was required. After a string of sensational media stories the government decided to take action. The fierceness of this 2003 war on drugs drew a lot of condemnation, but it did have an impact. The drug continues to be abused in Thailand, but the price of the drug has risen dramatically in recent years so it is a far less attractive option.
Those who use yaba regularly may consume 10 or more tablets a day. It is a highly addictive substance and the withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant. Like other types of methamphetamine it can destroy neurons associated with dopamine production. For this reason it can take a year or more for the body to fully recover. The typical withdrawal symptoms associated with yaba withdrawal include:
* Depression and suicidal thoughts
* Agitation and akathisia
* High anxiety levels
Many long term users of this drug can develop a psychosis that can be difficult to treat. Some of these individuals do fully recover their mental health after long-term abstinence from the drug.
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