CESAR: Center for Substance Abuse Research



Yaba, the Thai word for "crazy medicine," is a tablet form of methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant. These synthetically produced pills contain 25 to 35 mg of methamphetamine and 45 to 65 mg of caffeine. Tablets are available in a variety of flavors (including grape, orange, and vanilla) and colors (most commonly reddish-orange or green). Various logos (commonly "WY" or "R") adorn yaba tablets, which are the size of the end of a drinking straw. Yaba looks and tastes so much like candy that many young users (often including ecstasy users) underestimate its harmfulness1. Methamphetamine is also available in powder ("crystal") form, which can be processed into a rock ("ice") or liquid form.


Methamphetamine was derived from amphetamine in Japan in 1919. Both of these chemicals were originally used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Methamphetamine has also been used in the treatment of obesity. During World War II, military in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan used methamphetamines to fight fatigue and enhance performance. After the war, when military methamphetamine supplies became available to the public, abuse of intravenous methamphetamine became an epidemic in Japan. During the 1950s in the United States, methamphetamine tablets were legally manufactured, and used nonmedically by students, truck drivers, and athletes. In 1970, the Controlled Substance Act restricted the use of methamphetamine and made it a Schedule II substance2. Since yaba contains methamphetamine, it is also illegal3.

Today, the United Wa State Army, the largest drug trafficking organization in Burma, is the primary manufacturer of yaba in Southeast Asia; Thailand is the primary market for these tablets. Yaba is a recent phenomenon in the United States, although it has been popular in Southeast and East Asia for some time. Methamphetamine tablets are sent primarily by mail to northern California and the Los Angeles area, and although the demand for yaba appears to be primarily in Asian communities, popularity is increasing among rave attendees4.

Methods of Use

The most common method of using yaba is oral ingestion. Tablets can also be crushed into a powder and either snorted or mixed with a liquid and injected. In addition, tablets can be heated on aluminum foil to produce a vapor. The vapor is then inhaled5.


Yaba is a powerful central nervous system stimulant with longer lasting effects than those of cocaine. This is because cocaine is metabolized in the body more quickly than methamphetamine. Effects produced by yaba will be dependent on the dose taken6. Some effects include:

  • Euphoria
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Decreased appetite and nausea
  • Hot flashes, dry mouth, and sweating
  • Damage to the small blood vessels in the brain
  • Increased alertness, wakefulness, and physical activity
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and body temperature7
Effects of chronic abuse include:
  • Tremors
  • Hypertension
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Violent behavior
  • Hyperthermia and convulsions
  • Agitation, anxiety, and nervousness
  • Mental confusion and memory loss
  • Psychosis similar to schizophrenia (characterized by paranoia, picking at the skin, self absorption, and visual and auditory hallucinations)8


Methamphetamine in all forms is very dangerous and has a high potential for abuse and dependence. Moderate to chronic use of yaba and other methamphetamines may lead to physical and psychological dependence, and even death9. Abuse is characterized by consuming increasingly higher dosages during a period of 3 to 10 days with no sleep, in an attempt to maintain the initial high. However, no amount of the drug can achieve this effect so users may become frustrated, unpredictable, and violent10. When an individual goes through withdrawal from high doses of yaba, as well as all other forms of methamphetamine, severe depression often results11.


  • Slang Terms for Yaba:
    Crazy medicine, Nazi speed
  • Links


    1 DEA, Drug Trafficking in the United States (2001, September). Retrieved on February 3, 2004 from http://www.dea.gov/pubs/intel/01020/index.html; DEA, The Forms of Methamphetamine (2002, April) Retrieved on February 3, 2004, from http://www.dea.gov/pubs/intel/02016/index.html; Street Drugs: Methamphetamine. Retrieved on February 3, 2004, from http://www.streetdrugs.org/methamphetamine.htm; National Drug Intelligence Center, Yaba Fast Facts. Retrieved on February 3, 2004, from http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs5/5048/5048p.pdf
    2 Street Drugs: Methamphetamine.
    3 National Drug Intelligence Center, Yaba Fast Facts.
    4 DEA, The Forms of Methamphetamine; National Drug Intelligence Center, Yaba Fast Facts.
    5 DEA, The Forms of Methamphetamine; National Drug Intelligence Center, Yaba Fast Facts.
    6 DEA, The Forms of Methamphetamine.
    7 DEA, The Forms of Methamphetamine; Street Drugs: Methamphetamine; National Drug Intelligence Center, Yaba Fast Facts.
    8 DEA, The Forms of Methamphetamine; DEA, Drug Trafficking in the United States; DEA, Ecstasy and Predatory Drugs (2003, February). Retrieved on February 3, 2004, from http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/ecstasy/15ep.htm; National Drug Intelligence Center, Yaba Fast Facts.
    9 DEA, Drug Trafficking in the United States.
    10 DEA, Ecstasy and Predatory Drugs.
    11 DEA, The Forms of Methamphetamine.