Drug problem in southeast and southwest Asia

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Oct;1025:446-57. doi: 10.1196/annals.1316.055.


In 2002, the drug problem in Southeast and Southwest Asia was serious, particularly in the production of opium and heroin in Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Laos, the three largest producers of illicit opium in the world. The increasing illicit manufacture of ATS, particularly methamphetamine, in Southeast Asia, mainly in China and Myanmar, was also a major concern. Some reports indicated that ephedrine, used for illicitly producing methamphetamine in Southeast Asia, is diverted and smuggled out of China and India, whereas caffeine, the adulterant used for producing methamphetamine tablets, is mainly smuggled into Myanmar through its border with Thailand. Seizure data showed a dramatic increase in trafficking in MDMA through Southeast Asia. In terms of the drug epidemic, in 2002, cannabis remained overall the main drug of abuse in all of the countries of Southeast and Southwest Asia. Opiates, mainly opium and heroin, were also the drugs of choice except in Thailand, where opiate abuse declined, but ATS was the main drug of abuse due to its low cost and availability. A significant increase in ATS abuse, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and MDMA among the youth who smoked, sniffed, and inhaled them was reported in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand. Injecting drug use among opiate abusers has been identified as the prime cause of the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Southeast and Southwest Asia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asia, Southeastern / epidemiology
  • Asia, Western / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / economics
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / economics
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / economics*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*