Myanmar’s Meth Menace

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PHYU Hnin says that five years ago when she first started taking yabba, a small red pill that is a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine, she would take just a few a day to help her focus on her studies.

By last year, however, she says she was so addicted that she was popping up to 30 pills a day, mainly to keep her going on nights out. At about$2 a tablet, she was spending $60 a day on her addiction, and was struggling financially. Her family was also beginning to notice the erratic behavior caused by the drug, she says.

“My mother noticed a change in my behavior and urged me to stop. I was using so much yabba I was having psychological problems,” says Phyu Hnin, who says she is six months clean. “I was paranoid. I couldn’t go outside, and was having hallucinations.”

Sitting next to Phyu Hnin at a youth empowerment center in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, Myat Thura says he has had a more difficult time quitting the drug, which authorities say is readily available across almost the entire country.

“When you start, you look in the mirror and think you are the most beautiful person in the world,” Myat Thura says with a laugh. “But then you take more and it gets worse. I started to get paranoid, and very angry.”

Myat Thura, who says he is trying to get clean, acknowledges that his paranoia sometimes gets so bad that he goes out and starts fights. “At one point, I was walking around holding a stick, threatening anyone who looked at me,” he says.

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