It is estimated that 60 percent of the more than 35 million people who use synthetic drugs particularly the stimulant methamphetamine worldwide are living in the Asia-Pacific region.
STAR/File
Shabu market value in Southeast Asia expands fourfold
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The value of the illicit methamphetamine or shabu in market in Southeast Asia has expanded by four times in the last six years and is now estimated to be worth up to $61.4 billion annually, according to the latest United Nations Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment for the region.

It is estimated that 60 percent of the more than 35 million people who use synthetic drugs particularly the stimulant methamphetamine worldwide are living in the Asia-Pacific region.

At the same time, there has been a dramatic change in the East and Southeast Asia drug market, with traditional opiates including heroin in decline, and synthetic drugs including methamphetamine and ketamine sharply increasing.

The scale of the problem has resulted in increasing calls for a new approach to drug policy with a focus on addressing the health and social consequences of synthetic drug use.

Senior drug policy and health practitioners from Southeast Asia recently gathered in Bangkok to participate in a regional policy forum and seminar on synthetic drug use and harm reduction services organized by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (ODC) and UNAIDS.

Jeremy Douglas, UNODC regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, opened the forum, saying the synthetic drug market in the region has expanded for years in part because the demand, health and social harms received little policy focus and investment.

“The approach of addressing the problem almost exclusively by trying to reduce supply through seizures has not worked, but at least policymakers in the region are now reflecting on what this means and are discussing and debating different approaches, and some governments are considering strategies that include emphasis on preventive measures. The kind of governance changes necessary are not going to be easily or quickly implemented, but we will support the region with advice and assistance,” Douglas said.

He added: “Despite the challenge, which is certainly large and still appears to be expanding, it is good that governments are here and are starting to look at expanding treatment and harm reduction services for key vulnerable populations.”

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