UN warns of surging meth use across Asia, despite COVID-19


The market for synthetic drugs, including methamphetamine, continues to grow in Asia in spite of the coronavirus crisis, a UN report said of Friday.

“While the world has shifted its attention to the COVID-19 pandemic, all indications are that production and trafficking of synthetic drugs and chemicals continue at record levels in the region,” said Jeremy Douglas of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

According to a new report by the agency, the findings that rely on data from 2019 and in some cases up to the first quarter of 2020 are something of a surprise.

“It is hard to imagine that organised crime have again managed to expand the drug market, but they have,’’ Douglas, the agency’s Bangkok-based representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, noted.

On Thursday, police in Bangkok arrested three men while confiscating over a million meth pills, while recent weeks have seen Myanmar’s military and police in Hong Kong seizing drugs and manufacturing equipment in separate raids.

Some 115 tonnes of methamphetamines were confiscated by police across the region in 2019.

Report says the figure may likely represent a small fraction of the overall trade and does not include China, where around 30 tonnes a year were seized by police over the previous five years.

The rising use of synthetic drugs in Asia runs counter to trends elsewhere, with the UNODC, saying that the police seizures in Asia are “not observed in any other part of the world.”

“Prices for methamphetamines are their lowest in a decade.

“Straddling the remote borderlands of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, such hotbeds facilitate the production and trafficking of synthetic drugs,’’ the UN agency said.

The agency, however, noted a growing use of opiods such as fentanyl across the region.