What's the Latest Development?
A new United Nations report reveals that 70 million methamphetamine pills were seized by Southeast Asian authorities in 2011, a nearly five-fold increase from five years ago. Meth lab busts have also increased five-fold, while meth-related arrests have tripled. According to UN analyst Shaun Kelley, this reflects a huge jump in meth use and production across the region, corresponding with socioeconomic changes -- including more disposable income -- and national eradication campaigns against more traditional drugs such as opium.
What's the Big Idea?
Meth has become the drug of choice for several reasons, say experts. UN representative Gary Lewis says that in addition to partiers, meth "[is associated with] manual laborers [and] people who work two shifts to pay for the mortgage, the house and sending the kids to school." For producers, meth labs are easier to hide than opium and coca fields, which satellites can pick out fairly quickly. Plus, given the speed at which pills can be produced, and their street value (currently about $8-9 per pill), huge profits can be obtained in fairly short order. It can even be found in some surprising places: This year, the Thai press reported several cases in which Buddhist monks were caught selling or using meth.