Breaking Bad in China: Chinese abusing, supplying crystal meth to rest of Asia

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: May 20, 2014 19:43 IST

The market for methamphetamine, an addictive synthetic drug used as a stimulant, is expanding in China, a new UN report said Tuesday, adding that large production bases in the country are catering to an increasing demand for the banned substance across Asia.

In China, the market for the drug, often known by street names like crystal meth and ice, is going up among young drug users, the report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said.

Adding to the risk of the spread of the drug in China is that the basic chemicals used to make it can be easily diverted from other authorised use, the report released in Tokyo on Tuesday and circulated by email by the UN’s China office, added.

“The market for methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs continues to expand in China, particularly among young drug users. The risk of diversion in China of precursor chemicals and pharmaceutical preparations used to manufacture methamphetamine and other illicit drugs continues to be high,” the report pointed out.

“The rise in demand in Asian markets for methamphetamines and emerging demand for new psychoactive substances is being met by large production bases in neighbouring China, Myanmar and the Philippines," it said.

One such large base in south China’s Guangdong province was busted in January this year.

It took over 3000 police personnel, two helicopters for cover, four speedboats and trained police dogs to carry out the raid in Lufeng town.

The haul was massive: 2925 kg of the drug besides 23 metric tons of raw material to produce it; as many 182 suspects including high-ranking Communist Party of China local officials were detained.

It was one of the major seizures by the Chinese police.

Over the past three years, Lufeng was supplying at least one-third of the crystal meth nationwide and in Boshe, the most notorious area for drugs in Lufeng, more than one-fifth of local households were directly involved or had a stake in drug production and trafficking rings, state media had reported.

“Seizures of meth pills across China rocketed 1,500 per cent from 6 million in 2008 to 100 million in 2012,” the South China Morning Post quoted an earlier report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as saying.

The UN report pointed out: “China, whose latest figures reported a rapid rise in methamphetamine seizures to 16 MT, nearly 45 per cent of Asia’s total seizures.”

“This rising threat of synthetic drugs is compounded in Asia because the production epicenters of amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances are nearby. States throughout the region are deeply concerned about illicit drug production, the diversion of the precursor chemicals needed to make methamphetamines and new psychoactive substances, organised crime syndicates, and vulnerable borders,” Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative, Southeast Asia and Pacific,” said in the report.

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