Ya ba (also yaba, yaa baa, ya baa or yah bah; Thai: ยาบ้า,
literally "mad drug"; Burmese: ယာမ), formerly known as ya ma
(Thai: ยาม้า; literally "horse drug"), are tablets
containing a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine.
1 Alternative names
2 Appearance and use
4 Rise and fall in popularity in Thailand
5 Other countries
6 Long-term effects
8 External links
"From ya khayan (energy pill) in its early days to ya maa (horse
medicine), the drug was named ya ba (crazy pill) in 1996". It was
given to horses when pulling carts up steep hills and for other
strenuous work in Shan State. The slang terms for ya ba in
"kyethi" (literally, "button"), "athi", and "palarkar".
Ya ba is sometimes called "bhul bhuliya" in India. The name commonly
used for it in the
Indonesia is "shabú". In north
Thailand it is often referred to as "chocalee" due to the somewhat
sweet taste ya ba leaves in the mouth and its strong chocolate
smell. The name commonly used for it in China is "ma-goo" or
Bangladesh it's colloquially known as "baba", guti, Laal,
jinish, khawon, Nashokota, loppy, gari,bichi etc.
In Northeast India, especially Manipur, a major trade route of drugs,
it is commonly called Y(wai), Angangba/Lal (red), Katha, Prithibi,
Maru, WY etc.
Appearance and use
Ya ba is typically produced in a round pill form. There are many
different versions of ya ba, and the most common are red, orange, or
lime green in color and carry logos such as "R" or "WY". They are
small and round, roughly 6 millimetres (0.24 in) in diameter
(similar size to
Smint but round), which means they can be packed
inside a plastic soda straw for easy transportation or in a reusable
"mint" container.
Ya ba tablets typically are consumed orally. Another common method is
called "chasing the dragon". Users place the ya ba tablet on aluminum
foil and heat it from below. As the tablet melts, vapors rise and are
inhaled. The drug also may be administered by crushing the tablets
into powder, which is then snorted or mixed with a solvent and
injected. When swallowed in pill form the duration of the drug's
effect is between 8–16 hours, as compared to 1–3 hours when
smoked, while the intensity is considerably reduced. The peak of the
drug's effect is followed by a come down period lasting 6–10 hours,
during which the user may have difficulty sleeping or eating. Many
users report that it takes them up to 24 hours after consumption to be
able to fall asleep.
Ya ba is not commonly injected as many intravenous users favour the
pure product instead (methamphetamine, called "ice" in Southeast
Asia). This illegal drug is especially popular in Thailand, where it
is imported from
Burma or Laos even though it is sometimes
manufactured locally in Thailand.
Typical ya ba users are working males, aged 16–40 years old, and its
use is not uncommon among both female and male sex workers in Thailand
Burma (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. In 2010, Burma
trafficked 1 billion tablets to neighboring Thailand. 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
Rise and fall in popularity in Thailand
Ya ba tablets were formerly sold at gas stations and were commonly
used by long-haul drivers to stay awake. After many horrific
long-distance bus accidents, they were outlawed by the Thai government
in 1970. The deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's campaign from
2003 to eliminate drug-trafficking further helped to curtail
widespread use. In particular, use of the drug by bus drivers and
truckers is not as widespread as it was in the 1980s.
As a result of the Thai government crackdown, restricted supply has
had an effect on prices, further curtailing the popular use of ya ba.
In 1999–2000, when buying a straw-full (around 20 pills) in Chiang
Rai Province, north Thailand, ya ba was sold for around 10 baht per
pill and commonly used on the go-go circuit and by young "MTV"
clubbers. Retail prices have risen[when?] from
100–150 baht (US$3–4) to 250–450 baht per pill as a result of
the crackdown, though it remains a popular party drug.
In 2000, ya ba was smuggled across the porous border with
from the neighbouring Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai Provinces of Thailand.
Illegal traffickers often marketed or promoted their product by
claiming that the pills contained up to six percent heroin. Rumour
suggested it was produced by the corrupt personnel of Wa State Army in
In 2014, it was reported that Thailand's northeast provinces have seen
a 700 percent increase in the number of people arrested for meth since
2008, according to data from the Narcotics Suppression Bureau. 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 is
occurring across Asia, which now accounts for more than 50 percent of
global amphetamine-type stimulant users. 
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 in the country.
In 2006, ya ba ma consumption became fashionable for the well-to-do in
Bangladesh. A series of highly publicized drug raids in 2007 by
authorities implicated some well-known business people.[citation
needed] Although the extent of ya ba abuse in
Bangladesh is not
precisely known, seizures of the drug by authorities are frequent.
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. It is commonly known in
Bangladesh as "khaon", "pill",
"Laal", "BABA", "gari", "Chakka", "guti", and "bori", among other
Many Rohingya refugees are hired to smuggle yaba from
Bangladesh. In 2016, 359 Rohingyas were arrested on yaba-smuggling
charges, and up to $29 million worth of yaba was seized by the
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. In recent years, it has also been
used by immigrant populations in the United States, and occasionally
as a club drug replacing ecstasy.
Methamphetamine § Side effects
The majority of long term effects associated with ya ba are analogous
with those of methamphetamine, as ya ba mainly consists of caffeine
^ a b "Yaba Fast Facts". US National Drug Intelligence Center.
National Drug Intelligence Center. Jun 2003. Retrieved
^ Glahan, Surasak (21 Jun 2016). "Time we shook off meth's criminal
stigma". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
^ "Drugs Inc. Bangkok Ice" S7/Ep19 (2015)
^ a b c Thornton, Phil (12 February 2012). "Myanmar's rising drug
trade". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 2012-02-19.
^ a b Presser, Lizzie (2014-12-01). "Drug Addiction Grows on Thai
Rubber Farms". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
^ "Justice Minister: ya ba should be excluded from list of narcotic
drugs". Bangkok: Thai PBS. 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
^ Winn, Patrick (8 September 2016). "Thailand is moving closer to
decriminalizing meth". Public Radio International (PRI). Retrieved 30
^ Sanaul, Islam Tipu (2013-06-03). "Bail rejected, 'Yaba king' Amyn
Huda in jail". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 2014-11-13.
^ "Smuggling of Yaba tablets increasing day-by-day in Bangladesh".
Bnionline.net. 2011-12-04. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
^ Kunnen (24 February 2009). "Newsletter_Feb232009_final.pdf" (PDF).
^ a b Kullab, Samya (23 February 2017). "The Trouble With Thengar
Char". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2017-02-25.
– via Foreign Affairs (subscription required)
^ Lappin, Yaakov (2010-02-02). "'Nazi speed' smuggled in huge
amounts". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2014-11-13.
New Drug Seeping into California Communities. The Associated Press, 22
Dhaka Police in "Huge" Drugs Haul. BBC News, 26 Oct 2007
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