Pubdate: Wed, 21 Aug 2002
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2002 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Donna Leinwand
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Federal agents arrested 10 people in Sacramento on Monday in what 
authorities called the first significant U.S. bust involving Ya Ba, a 
powerful methamphetamine from Asia that is gaining favor among teens and 
young adults on the West Coast.

The suspects, all from the Sacramento area, face federal drug conspiracy 
charges, agents said. They are accused of trying to smuggle hundreds of 
thousands of tiny, brightly colored Ya Ba pills into California from 
Thailand and Laos.

The arrests follow a two-year period in which Customs seized more than 45 
shipments of Ya Ba at Oakland's port and at international mail processing 
facilities in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Honolulu.

The seizures reflect the rise in popularity of Ya Ba pills, a hot topic on 
Internet chat sites frequented by teens and young adults who attend 
all-night dance parties known as raves. Ya Ba (Thai for "crazy medicine") 
packs a powerful and long-lasting high.

Ya Ba pills' small size - about as big around as a pencil eraser - makes it 
easy for users and smugglers to hide them. U.S. officials have found pills 
stashed in individual cigarettes as well as hemlines and waistbands of 

Ya Ba pills often are candy-flavored, apparently to make them more 
appealing to young people, said Dan Lane, the lead U.S. Customs official in 
Sacramento. He said agents have seized grape-flavored purple pills and 
vanilla-flavored pills that were orange-red.

Ya Ba, also known as "Nazi speed," is a highly pure methamphetamine pill 
that first appeared in the USA two years ago, in California's Southeast 
Asian immigrant communities. Methamphetamine, a stimulant, is highly 
addictive. Confiscated Ya Ba pills also have included ephedrine and caffeine.

A Ya Ba high, stronger than that provided by the club drug Ecstasy, can 
last 10 hours. Users generally take a pill orally or place it in foil, hold 
a lighter under it and inhale the smoke, Lane said.

The pills are made in Burma, also known as Myanmar, and are smuggled by the 
hundreds of millions into Thailand, he said. Ya Ba has become a major 
problem for anti-drug efforts in Thailand, where pills typically sell for 
$1.25 each. A pill can cost up to $20 in the USA.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager