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Yaba is sometimes called bhul bhuliya in India. The name commonly used for it in the Philippines and Indonesia is shabú. In North Thailand it is often referred to as "Chocalee" due to a somewhat sweet taste Yaba pills leave in the mouth.
Yaba is typically produced in a round pill form. They are brightly colored in red, orange or lime green and carry logos such as "R" or "WY". They are small and round, roughly 6 mm in diameter (similar size to Smint but round), which means they can be packed inside a regular drinking straw for easy transportation. Or in a reusable 'mint' container.
Quality varies according to source, most are manufactured for "chasing" on aluminum foil or inside covers of cigarette packs: placing part of the pill on aluminum foil and inhaling the fumes through a straw as a lighter slowly heats the aluminum foil. It is also common to simply swallow the drug in pill form; this method lengthens the duration of the drug to between four and six hours, as compared to half an hour when smoked, and reduces the intensity considerably. A variation of Ya-Ba from Laos is injected by the consumer. This illegal drug combination is especially popular in south-east Asia, where it is imported from neighboring Burma or Laos or manufactured locally.
There are many different ways to inhale the drug, including fashioning water funnels, called 'turbo', out of empty water/glass bottles attached to two straws (bongs) and aluminum foil. This helps cool the burning mixture through water before it is inhaled. In theory, this method leaves the toxic chemical additives in the water and reduces the damage caused to the lungs while allowing the intoxicating drug to safely pass through the water. Glass pipes specifically designed for users are frequently given away at no extra cost by dealers in south-east Asia. A white residue is left on the surface of the glass pipe which is later smoked to continue the intoxication.
Burma (Myanmar) is the largest producer of methamphetamines in the world, with the majority of ya ba found in Thailand 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 drugs.
Yaba tablets were sold at gas stations and commonly used by Thai truckers 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 onwards to eliminate drug-trafficking has further helped to curtail widespread use, in particular, use of the drug by bus drivers is not as widespread as it was in 1980s.
As a result of the Thai government crackdown, restricted supply has had a huge effect on prices, further curtailing the popular use of Yaba. In 1999-2000, when buying a straw-full (around 20 pills) in Chiang Rai province, North Thailand, Yaba was sold for around ฿10 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, Yaba was smuggled across the loose border with Burma and 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 6% heroin. Rumour suggested it was produced by the corrupt personnel of Wa State Army in Burma.
In 2006, Yaba 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.
In February 2010 it was reported that increasingly large quantities of Yaba are being smuggled into Israel by Thai migrant workers leading to fears that its use will 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.
Immediate feelings are of light-headedness (and potentially dizziness), followed by euphoria, increased physical activity, heightened alertness and increased wakefulness as a result of the central nervous system being affected. After several hours the user experiences the come-down and feels decreased appetite, increased respiration and hypothermia.
Methamphetamine is highly addictive, with a long-term drug user taking 5-10 pills daily. Post come-down effects include irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia, and aggressiveness. Hair loss can also be an indicator of a long-term user, either as a direct result of the drug intake, or indirectly through the user becoming withdrawn and anxious and contracting behavioural habits, such as hair pulling. Other reported symptoms also include lower back pain, possibly from damage to the liver or kidneys.